Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs speaks in Ottawa on Thursday, December 7, 2017. Dumas says he’s concerned about the growing number of COVID-19 cases First Nation communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs speaks in Ottawa on Thursday, December 7, 2017. Dumas says he’s concerned about the growing number of COVID-19 cases First Nation communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

‘We are at risk:’ Leadership sounds alarm as COVID-19 cases surge among First Nations

26 Indigenous communities had reported two or more active COVID-19 cases.

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas shook his head in shock when he saw the line indicating new First Nations infections on a chart during the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs most recent COVID-19 meeting.

“Up until today theaverage was usually slightly below the provincial rates, but today is quite alarming,” Dumas said Friday.

Indigenous leaders and health professionals are warning that the second wave of COVID-19 is building

quickly among First Nations on the Prairies.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, reported Friday that 26 Indigenous communities had reported two or more active COVID-19 cases. Seventeen of those were in Manitoba.

A surge of infections in Saskatchewan and Alberta is also affecting reserves. The most recent numbers from Indigenous Services Canada show 116 on-reserve cases in Saskatchewan and 79 in Alberta.

Health officials say numbers shared by Manitoba’s First Nations COVID-19 pandemic response team indicate the impact is worsening. There are 516 active cases involving Indigenous people — 171 of them who live on reserve.

Manitoba’s test positivity among First Nations stands at 11 per cent. It’s 8.6 per cent for the rest of the province.

“Things are going in the wrong direction, and they are going in the wrong direction fairly quickly right now,” said Dr. Michael Routledge, a provincial medical health officer for First Nations and Inuit.

The Manitoba government announced Friday it is tightening restrictions in most of the province after a record-breaking 480 new daily cases. Winnipeg is moving to red status — the highest — under the province’s pandemic response rating. Health officials said the surge has put a strain on health care and some intensive care units are pushing capacity.

Leona Star with the COVID-19 committee said there is significant concern over the numbers of First Nations people in hospital. Of the 104 people hospitalized Friday, 25 were First Nations, seven of them in intensive care.They ranged in age from 16 to 82.

“The curve is going up,” Star warned. “We are seeing a large spike.”

READ MORE: No doubt second wave of COVID-19 will hit Indigenous communities harder: Miller

Also on Friday, Ottawa announced an additional $200 million to fight COVID-19 in Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Services Canada said in a statement to The Canadian Press that the department continues to work with First Nations to respond to the pandemic. That includes providing testing swabs and personal protective equipment.

Spokeswoman Geneviève Guibert added that the department also recognizes the importance and sacred nature of cultural ceremonies. It will respect decisions by chiefs and council on how or whether to hold them, she said.

Many of the infections on reserves have been linked to funerals and religious gatherings. Pimicikamak in northern Manitoba is one of a handful of communities that went into lockdown after members tested positive following a funeral. Chief David Monias posted online that one member who tested positive had to be flown south for medical treatment.

A church gathering in Prince Albert, Sask., also led to multiple positive cases on First Nations throughout the province earlier in October. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations held an all-denomination prayer on Friday calling for safety and protection for all community members.

“We ask the entire treaty territory to pray for all those living in the shadow of the pandemic, those stricken with the coronavirus, and for the many who have died from COVID-19,” Chief Bobby Cameron said in a statement. “Additionally, pray for protection and good health during the pandemic.”

Dumas said Indigenous leadership in Manitoba has been adapting quickly to the growing numbers of positive cases. He said people want to keep each other safe and healthy.

“We are at risk. We can’t be too lax on our vigilance.”

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

Cranbrook City Hall. File photo.
Council passes, adopts new bylaw to allow legal secondary suites

Cranbrook has formally adopted a secondary suites bylaw that will allow secondary… Continue reading

The Pacwest announced that all winter sports competition has been cancelled.
B.C.’s Pacwest college sports conference cancels winter competition

Pacwest cancels all winter sports competition after cancelling fall sports back in June

Cranbrook City Hall.
Council postpones land use discussion for proposed overnight shelter

An application for an overnight shelter will be presented at a forthcoming… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Most Read