Delta COVID-19 variant a ‘game changer’ for Kahnawà:ke says public safety official


After going weeks without holding a news conference related to the COVID-19 virus, officials in Kahnawà:ke were back at it.

“It’s a bit of a game changer,” says Lloyd Phillips, commissioner of Public Safety for Kahnawà:ke. “This is a stark reminder that COVID is still here and now the Delta variant is here and we must remain vigilant.”

Officials confirmed that the COVID-19 Delta variant is now circulating in Kahnawà:ke.

According to a council-issued news release, there are “at least 14 active cases of COVID-19” in the community located on the western outskirts of Montreal along the St. Lawrence River.

While Phillips didn’t reveal how many Delta cases there are in Kahnawà:ke – he did say that Kahnawake how has Quebec’s highest per capita rate of Delta variant infections.

“We must understand that as normal as things seem to be coming around – slow but sure – we can’t let down our guard,” Phillips says.

So Kahnawà:ke is putting its guard back up.

Starting Thursday, Kahnawà:ke businesses will keep registries for better contact tracing, masks are mandatory for outdoor gatherings of unvaccinated – or partially vaccinated community members.

According to officials, 66 per cent of Kahnawà:ke residents over 18 have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

They say the pressure is still on.

“We’ve talked about herd immunity, and we’ve been trying so hard to get our 80 per cent here in Kahnawà:ke,” says Dawn Montour-Lazare who is with the Kateri Memorial Hospital in Kahnawake. “But with the Delta variant right now going around the country, they’re looking at us now possibly needing 96 per cent of effective vaccinations to be able to get good herd immunity.”

Quebec public health data says there are 378 cases of the Delta COVID-19 variant across the province – 300 of those cases emerged in one month.

For Kahnawà:ke, keeping the fourth wave at bay starts now.

“It’s important that the community understands that we are in somewhat of a fragile state,” says Phillips. “It’s an individual decision, but as Kahnawake’noron – as Mohawk people – the collective always comes first.”

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are four variants of concern across the country.

“Overall, variants of concern represent the majority of recently reported COVID-19 cases across the country. B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.617.2 (Delta).

“The B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant continues to account for the majority of variants in Canada.”

As of Thursday, 84.3 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with 69.7 per cent considered adequately vaccinated.

Quebec was hit hard in the early months of the pandemic.

Since March of 2020, 378,157 people in the province have contracted the virus and 11,240 have died due to COVID-19.

There are currently 1,263 active cases in the province.

Reporter / Montreal

Lindsay was born and raised on the unceded territory of Tiohtià:ke (Montréal), and joined APTN News as a Quebec correspondent in 2019. While in university, she collaborated on a multiplatform project about the revitalization of the Kanien’kéha (Mohawk) language to commemorate the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Before APTN Lindsay worked at the Eastern Door, CTV Montreal and the Montreal Gazette.