Dear Chief and Health Director,
As you may be aware, some parts of Ontario have been seeing increasing numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 over the past few weeks. Increased numbers of cases are also being seen in Manitoba, as well as other provinces. Unfortunately, some communities in other provinces have had outbreaks associated with large gatherings.
First Nations communities in Ontario have been very successful at preventing COVID-19 infections in their residents, and when people have tested positive, communities have prevented infections from spreading. Your timely actions have prevented illness and protected elders.
Having entered this next wave of COVID-19, it continues to be critical that we all take all necessary actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while supporting each other. We have received many questions from communities about the safety of social interactions and gatherings. We recognize the importance of gatherings and that these are community decisions. We would like to provide you with the advice that we offer for your consideration.
We recommend that people should continue to follow the basic precautions of staying home if unwell, physical distancing, hand washing, and wearing non-medical face coverings indoors or when physical distancing is not possible. Limiting the number of contacts that each of us has every day is again extremely important in limiting the spread of infection.
If gatherings cannot be postponed, then ensuring that people keep their distance, clean their hands, and encourage the wearing of masks is recommended. Outdoor gatherings where people can physically distance are a better choice than indoor settings and are more likely to prevent the spread of infection than indoor gatherings.
People who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness, particularly those over 60 years, should be extra cautious when they have to interact with others, and consider limiting exposure to other people when possible.
As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve in Ontario and Canada, please visit the websites below to find up to date and reliable information.
- Ministry of Health Ontario – https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus
- Public Health Agency of Canada – https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html
We encourage communities to continue to be proactive with communications to your residents on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
More information can be found on OneHealth at: https://www2.onehealth.ca/on/
Dr. Maurica Maher, MD, MSc(Tox), MSc(Epi), FRCPC
Regional Public Health Physician, Health Protection Unit
First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Ontario Region
Indigenous Services Canada