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Fort William First Nation COVID-19 cases tied to corrections outbreaks

An inmate released into the community visited multiple homes, First Nation leadership reported Friday
FWFN mobile COVID-19 test
Fort William First Nation members participate in mobile COVID-19 testing in the spring of 2020. (Ian Kaufman,

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – Two new cases of COVID-19 in Fort William First Nation are related to the release of inmates from local correctional centres experiencing outbreaks, band leadership has confirmed.

“The First Nation [was] not notified of an inmate being released into [the] community and were made aware through social media well after the individual was in the community and had visited multiple homes,” the First Nation stated in a release Friday.

Both people who tested positive have since been transported to the dedicated isolation shelter in Thunder Bay.

The Thunder Bay District Jail and Thunder Bay Correctional Centre are each in the midst of major outbreaks, with 92 and 75 total cases confirmed, respectively.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit has been scrambling to trace those released and their contacts to limit community spread.

“One of the challenges is that inmates can be released from jail for various reasons,” medical officer of health Dr. Janet DeMille has said. “That can happen anytime.”

The situation prompted the City of Thunder Bay to declare a state of emergency over concerns the releases could spark rapid spread amongst the most vulnerable.

“We were concerned that some of those people that tested positive or had been tested and we didn’t have the results back yet… there’s a probability they would be positive,” said Mayor Bill Mauro. “Then they are out in the community and they might go into a shelter or be homeless and then you might have community spread.”

Fort William First Nation reported a new case of COVID-19 on Jan. 30, for the first time since November.

The First Nation reiterated the importance of following provincial stay-at-home and self-isolation orders Friday, telling members it's "vital that the community assist with preventing further community transmission."