Coronavirus making inroads with first cases in First Nations in Manitoba

Stay vigilant, stay safe, stay strong and be respectful,” leaders say.

Some First Nations in Manitoba are beefing up testing of the novel coronavirus after COVID-19 scares in their communities.

Fisher River, Peguis and Jackhead in Manitoba were among them after three individuals tested positive.

“Stay vigilant, stay safe, stay strong and be respectful,” said Fisher River Chief David Crate.

“We, as a community, will get through this together.”

Crate said the patients were self isolating for 14 days and being monitored by nurses while the community expands testing to get a handle on what are the first cases of COVID-19 in a First Nation in Manitoba.

Fisher River has one confirmed case and two are suspected in nearby Peguis.

A provincial medical team is on site for members of the three neighbouring First Nations, Crate added, with “rapid COVID-19 tests” for people named as close contacts, those experiencing symptoms.

Fisher River, which is 220 km north of Winnipeg, has temporarily closed its gaming centre for a thorough cleaning.

“We believe that as a community we can get through this, and encourage everyone to keep doing the safety protocols,” gaming centre manager Barry Wilson said in a post online.

The band office was also shuttered and sanitized, Crate noted.

He recommended everyone wear masks in public and practice physical distancing.

It is believed the patients are connected to each other and exposed to the virus in Winnipeg at the beginning of September.

But the chief cautioned band members from speculating about their identities online.

He said the positive results became known late last week. And, as a result, the start of school in Fisher River was rescheduled to Sept. 28.

The Fisher River Gaming Centre was closed until further notice and all visits to the Ochekwi-Sipi Cree Nation Personal Care Home were on hold.

Glenn Hudson, the chief of Peguis, said his community had been preparing for the report of a positive case for months and was confident it would be handled in a professional manner.

“I know we’ve kept our community safe over the last five to six months – free of COVID-19,” he said, “but I guess just like any other community or any virus it’s inevitable.”

Hudson revealed the positive case had driven a family from their home.

“I know we’ve had family and extended family staying together in one of the situations … and for that reason the family had to vacate the home and we had to find alternative arrangements,” he told APTN News.

“That has happened twice I’ll say in this situation, but it is a factor.”

Without a hotel or vacant housing to accept the family, Hudson said it was “fortunate” extended family members stepped up and took them in.

According to Indigenous Services Canada, there have been a total of 491 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in First Nation, Metis and Inuit communities. Fifty-three of those cases remain active. Nine people have died from the virus.

“There has been a resurgence of positive case numbers among First Nations individuals living on reserve this week, similar to those being observed for the general Canadian population,” said a release from Indigenous Services.

“This trend is moving in the wrong direction, and serves as an important reminder of the importance to remain vigilant as we enter fall. We urge everyone to follow public health measures to keep COVID-19 cases down.”

There are currently 138,010 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Canada. Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have all seen spikes in cases in recent days. In B.C., banquet halls and night clubs after more than 400 cases were confirmed recently. At the moment, 9,171 people have died.

Worldwide, there are more than 29-million cases and 925,000 deaths.

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