Mohawk community of Akwesasne opens its own COVID-19 testing site

People in Akwesasne will now be able to get tested for the novel coronavirus without leaving the community.

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne received permission from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit to operate a mobile testing clinic to address the unique geographic challenges of the Mohawk community, which straddles the Ontario, Quebec, and New York State borders.

Prior, community members would have had to travel to either nearby Cornwall, Ont., or around 60 kilometres away for testing in Huntingdon, Que., or Valleyfield, Que., depending on which provincial health care card they had.

The council says it’s one of the first mobile testing clinics operated by an Indigenous public health body in Canada.

“As a small community, we want to maintain patient privacy and to have control over our own medical information. Mobile testing for COVID-19 allows us to maintain both in our own setting,” Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict said in a statement.

“Having our residents seen by our own, local medical professionals and caregivers also adds a sense of calming to what is already a very stressful situation for those seeking testing.”

Benedict said the data will allow leadership to make proactive decisions for ordering medical and food supplies, schooling, and operating hours for local businesses.

“There are so many factors at play when considering the safety of our community at large, and having even basic data about our infection rates helps,” he said.

The unit was set up this week as a drive-through site and the Mohawk Council’s department of health is accepting appointments.

Community members with symptoms are asked to call the Community Health Program at 613-575-2341 ext 3220. If you meet the criteria for testing you will be given an appointment location, date and time. (Submitted by MCA Communications Unit)

The Mohawk Council’s department of health said it doesn’t have a health data sharing agreement with New York’s Franklin County Health Department, so the mobile testing site is limited to those members with Ontario and Quebec health care cards and an Akwesasne status card.

Community members with symptoms are asked to call the Community Health Program and speak to an MCA Community Health Nurse to determine if they meet the criteria for testing.

1 confirmed case recovered

To date, there’s only been one confirmed case of COVID-19 reported in Akwesasne, and it was investigated by the Franklin County Public Health Department. The individual, whose identity was protected, published a self-report on the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Facebook page on March 30 stating that they fully recovered.

“I wanted to share with you the message of hope that this proves that people can overcome it. I know the severity of the virus and how it may affect people differently. That’s why I followed the protocol to self-quarantine,” the individual wrote in the post. 

“I know fear can consume a community, but please remember that I am a person, I’m someone’s child, I matter. To read some of the negative comments on social media were hurtful and unnecessary. I did not intentionally get infected and would never put anyone’s well-being at risk.”

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