Manitoba

First Nations people in Manitoba see alarming test positivity rate, as provincial rate drops

The First Nations population in Manitoba continues to be the hardest hit by COVID-19 with infection rates disproportionate to the rest of the province.

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas attempts to dispel misinformation in weekly update, encourages citizens to get vaccine

By next week, all 63 First Nations in the province will have started vaccinating people designated as a priority, the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team said Friday. (File photo from Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The First Nations population in Manitoba continues to be the hardest hit by COVID-19, with disproportionate infection rates, the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team said Friday.

The response team's Leona Star said in a weekly update that First Nations people currently make up 70 to 80 per cent of all active cases in the province, and have an 18 per cent test positivity rate.

That compares to a positivity rate for the general provincial population of 7.5 per cent, as of Friday, and 4.9 per cent in Winnipeg.

In the last week, 703 new First Nations cases have been reported. 

Star said 29 reserves have a combined total of 2,334 active cases, with another 446 active cases involving First Nations people off reserve. Provincial officials reported 3,490 active cases in Manitoba overall on Friday, but have previously said active case numbers may be inflated due to data backlogs.

Star said there are currently 62 First Nations people in hospital with COVID-19, including 13 in intensive care.

The military remains on the Garden Hill First Nation and a special rapid response team was sent to three different communities this week. 

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas attempted to dispel myths about vaccines in Friday's weekly update via Facebook Live. He dismissed false information that implied a vaccine going to First Nations was different from the rest of the population. 

"It's unfortunate that sometimes Dr. Facebook or Dr. Google or Dr. Rumour takes over the actual credible and factual information that we're providing," Dumas said.

Moderna vaccine in all 63 First Nations

Dumas urged First Nations people who have received the vaccine to call their friends and share their experience.

"It would be important for them to receive that message, and it will be comforting for them to hear it from one of their friends."

Chief Dino Flett holds a box of the Moderna vaccine as it arrives in Garden Hill First Nation. (Submitted by Dino Flett)

The pandemic response team's Dr. Marcia Anderson said shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine were going to the last three First Nations that had yet to receive doses on Friday. By next week, after new on-reserve vaccine clinics are set up, all 63 First Nations in the province will have started vaccinating people designated as a priority.

"The numbers overall are really good," she said adding an announcement about the next phase of vaccine rollout would happen on Monday.

Anderson urged people to continue following the fundamentals and stay away from others when sick.

"We need to take care of ourselves and each other and keep being vigilant."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

​Austin Grabish joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. In 2019, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Have a story idea? Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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