Six Nations of the Grand River says one of its members has died from COVID-19.

In a media release Wednesday evening officials said the community’s first death connected to the novel coronavirus comes less than two weeks after its first case was confirmed on March 28.

“Given the increased risk of mortality within First Nations communities, we’ve been trying to prepare for this, but you never really can, can you?” said Elected Chief Mark Hill. “Our community is grieving today. Our hearts go out to the family.”

There are currently eight cases of COVID-19 on Six Nations territory.

Six Nations declared a community emergency on March 13. Its elected council is working with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council to respond to the virus and has closed non-essential services and schools as well as directed staff to work from home.

Officials have also set up barriers to restrict access to Six Nations territory in order to protect elders and other vulnerable members — a measure that has been publicly supported by surrounding communities and emergency services.

Workers build and raise a Road Closed sign to alert drivers Pauline Johnson Road into Six Nations of the Grand River is closed to stop the spread of the virus. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Public health is continuing to warn residents to physically distance themselves in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“When all of this is over, we will hold each other close,” said Hill. “But right now, we need to show unimaginable strength and do everything in our power to ensure we do not lose anymore lives.”

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