First Nations Leaders in Nova Scotia Urge Testing Amid COVID-19 Outbreaks

Nova Scotia’s Eskasoni First Nation is cracking down on COVID-19 after an increase in cases in the Mi’kmaq community along Cape Breton’s Bras d’or Lake.

Eskasoni’s boss, Leroy Denny, took to Facebook Live on Monday to address his community. He says, while 11 of the 34 confirmed cases have recovered, there are currently three other presumptive cases. The 23 active cases represent nearly one percent of those living in the larger Mi’kmaq community east of Montreal.

“There’s a lot of pressure on a lot of our hospitals and public health to the point where they can’t keep up,” Denny said. “So we have to do our part, help them and get tested.”

Membertou boss Terry Paul also used social media to call his community, citing 12 confirmed cases as of Monday. On Tuesday, many people took a break from their vacation to attend a PCR testing clinic at the Membertou Entertainment Center.

“We expect the numbers to continue to rise over the next few days and weeks, but we must ride this wave and stay close to home,” Paul said via Facebook Live.

In recent days, there have been outbreaks in Pictou Landing and Paqtn’kek First Nations on mainland Nova Scotia, which Cape Breton chiefs have been watching closely.

“In Paqt’nkek, they had 50 cases and now it’s down to 10,” Denny said. “So I talked to his boss and they did a curfew. And I spoke to boss Andrea (Paul, from Pictou Landing First Nation) and he’s having his outbreak in the community, and he also has a curfew.”

Denny says that over the past week, more than 1,000 people at Eskasoni have been tested.

“I will meet with my council (Wednesday) along with public health, and we will discuss next steps,” he said.

Denny says that while there is no confirmation of community spread in Eskasoni, he is asking people to keep their bubbles tight as the New Year arrives.

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