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Many exposed as Aroland reports first COVID-19 case

Authorities remain unsure how virus entered First Nation, after Aroland reports first COVID-19 case; large number of people exposed
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AROLAND FIRST NATION – A large number of people have been exposed to COVID-19 in Aroland First Nation, its chief says, as the community reported its first case of the virus over the weekend.

Chief Dorothy Towedo said authorities were still unsure how the case entered the community, located about 400 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

“We don’t know where or how this individual may have picked it up,” she said. “We’ve been very fortunate – we held off this long before one of our members got exposed, but unfortunately I guess the day would [inevitably] come that we’d get hit with the virus.”

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit would work with local health authorities to follow up with what the chief said were a large number of residents exposed.

Some of those exposures were a result of New Year’s gatherings, Towedo said Sunday, though it was not confirmed those gatherings had spread the virus.

The Aroland band council implored residents to be honest with contact tracers in a statement issued Saturday, and to refrain from “victim shaming” those who tested positive.

“We are all stressed out in this situation, but attacking people will not help anyone,” it read.

The Matawa Health Co-op will be in the community Monday to administer tests for those contacted by public health authorities. Other residents who wanted to receive tests would also have access, Towedo said.

In the meantime, the band and council directed all residents to isolate at home, warning a curfew could be implemented if the advice was not followed.

Security was posted to a checkpoint at the community’s main entrance, with the band council saying no one would be allowed in or out until contact tracing was complete.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit first reported a First Nation case, without specifically identifying Aroland, on Saturday.