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

Jack and Arleen Mar celebrated their wedding 60 years ago. (Contributed photo)
White Rock couple celebrates 60 years of marriage

‘Listen to your wife,’ Jack Mar offered as advice to newlyweds

A cache of 89 crabs was discovered during a 2018 compliance inspection at South Surrey’s Elgin Park Marina. (Contributed photo)
$7,500 fine for illegal crab harvest discovered in South Surrey

Laird Goddyn found guilty in Surrey Provincial Court following 2018 investigation

South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course – a 15-acre property that also includes a residence – has been sold. (Colliers Canada photo)
South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course sold to new owners

Deal for popular par 3 course expected to close by end of the year

Gerry Vowles (left), Michael Cook, and Dave Sinclair were awarded “Dominion Command Presidential Citations” June 17 in Cloverdale. The rare awards were given out for “exemplary service to the Legion.” (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Three B.C. legionnaires awarded ‘Presidential Citations’

Ceremony took place in Cloverdale June 17

Kaushal Parikh raised $2,840 for COVID-19 relief in India during his almost nine-hour run around the new North Delta Secondary School track on Sunday, June 13, 2021. (Submitted photo)
North Delta ultramarathoner raises over $2,800 for COVID relief in India

Kaushal Parikh ran the 90-km virtual Comrades Marathon around the NDSS track in under nine hours

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

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

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read