Test positivity rate for First Nations in Manitoba more than double provincial average

The five-day test positivity rate among First Nations people in Manitoba is now 21 per cent — up from 17 per cent on Jan. 8 and double the overall provincial number reported by the province Friday.

5-day test positivity rate is 21% among First Nations people in Manitoba, compared to 10% provincewide

Of the 191 new cases of COVID-19 reported provincewide in Manitoba on Friday, about 60 per cent (114) were among First Nations people. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

First Nations people make up an increasing proportion of COVID-19 cases in the province, one of the physicians leading Manitoba's First Nations Pandemic Response Coordination team said Friday. 

"When we see the numbers that we're seeing right now … we know there's a lot of the virus circulating," Dr. Marcia Anderson said during the team's update via Facebook Live.

"It becomes more important than ever that we are very diligent with those public health measures."

The team reported 599 new cases among First Nations people in Manitoba over the past week, with a total of 2,073 active cases. 

The five-day test positivity rate among First Nations people in Manitoba is now 21 per cent — up from 17 per cent on Jan. 8, and double the 10 per cent provincewide rate among the general population reported Friday.

Anderson said of the 191 new cases of COVID-19 reported provincewide in Manitoba on Friday, about 60 per cent (114) were among First Nations people.

She said long-standing challenges, including inadequate and overcrowded housing, contribute to the higher rates of infection.

"We know that crowding in homes makes it really difficult to isolate appropriately within the home."

In an effort to slow the spread of infection, Anderson encourages people with COVID-19 who are offered a space outside their home to self-isolate to accept it, if they need it. 

"It's going to be really hard for us to bring down these numbers in communities if we cannot isolate more." 

The COVID-19 vaccine dose is administered at Pimicikamak Cree Nation to Coun. Mervin Garrick Thursday night. (Submitted by David Monias)

The total number of cases among First Nations people in Manitoba since the start of the pandemic is now 6,989, including 2,871 people who live on reserve.

There have now been 119 deaths among First Nations people from COVID-19 in Manitoba, according to the Friday's update.

Vaccine rollout in First Nations communities 

The province is sending 5,300 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations communities. 

Anderson said shipments started last week and by end of day Thursday, the vaccine had arrived in 36 communities. 

"It's been a bright spot in all of this to see pictures of health staff and elders being vaccinated," said Anderson.

She doesn't know how many of those vaccine doses have been administered to date, but said the uptake has been good. 

"I'm so appreciative of the elders for really leading the way in this, in being informed and consenting to the vaccine," she said.

Anderson said while it's not clear when elders who live off reserve will be able to get vaccinated for COVID-19, it is a priority, and work is underway with the provincial vaccine task force around a rollout plan. 

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee while the vaccine distribution is good news, people need to stay focused on following public health measures. 

"We're not out of the woods yet," said Settee. "Our people can still get really sick, We could still lose lives here." 

Rise in northern Manitoba cases 

Settee said some northern Manitoba First Nations have been hit hard by COVID-19.

The province reported 84 new cases in the Northern Health Region on Friday, making it the third day in a row the area has had the province's largest number of new cases. 

Settee said while COVID-19 case numbers have declined in a number of communities, he expressed concerns for residents of Marcel Colomb First Nation and Lynn Lake. 

"The status of Marcel Colomb is very concerning. I know they've lost two members of their First Nation," he said. 

Settee said a quarter of the residents of Lynn Lake have tested positive for COVID-19, and work is currently underway to assist people who need help. 

The CAO of Lynn Lake said Thursday a Manitoba search and rescue team has been deployed to help the community with patrolling, wellness checks and food deliveries, especially to isolating households.

About the Author

Alana Cole

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Alana Cole is a reporter at CBC Manitoba. Email: