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

Just Posted

Filming of The Baker’s Son in Chemainus. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Bread-making brilliance and mediocrity the recipe for movie ingredients

Willow Street on the map as a prominent location in The Baker’s Son

The return of Community Policing will be a welcome addition by residents. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Return of Community Policing in the works

Volunteers being sought and coordinators to be announced soon

Sonia Furstenau, MLA
Proposed Health Professions Act would eliminate barriers, guide regulations

Is your doctor a member of good standing with the BC College… Continue reading

These Douglas fir logs were found poached in April on Stoney Hill in North Cowichan’s forest reserve. (Larry Pynn/sixmountains.ca)
Fines in forest reserve could increase significantly after illegal logging

North Cowichan considering fines of up to $50,000

North Cowichan’s senior environment specialist Dr. Dave Preikshot (pictured) said there’s a wide spectrum of views on carbon credits. (File photo)
Carbon credits expected to be part of discussions around forest reserve

North Cowichan acknowledges wide range of views on issue

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

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

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

Most Read