Care home outbreak in Opaskwayak Cree Nation over after 27 residents fully recover from COVID-19

An outbreak at a care home in Opaskwayak Cree Nation, where the military was brought in after every resident tested positive for COVID-19, is now declared over.

'It provides a lot of relief and comfort for our membership,' Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair says

Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair stands with the 12 military members who assisted at a care home in the northern Manitoba First Nation battling a COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted by Christian Sinclair)

An outbreak at a personal care home in Opaskwayak Cree Nation, where the military was brought in after every resident tested positive for COVID-19, is now over.

Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair said one resident of the Rod McGillivary Memorial Care Home passed away and 27 others have fully recovered.

"It provides a lot of relief and comfort for our membership," Sinclair said.

"It's now just making sure that it doesn't get out of control again ... and learning from this as they move forward."

All infected staff have also recovered and have returned to work, he added.

A Canadian Forces multi-purpose medical assistance team was deployed in OCN on Nov. 21st to assist staff in caring for many people who have the virus. (Submitted by Department of National Defence)

The outbreak was declared on Oct. 21 after a staff member tested positive for the virus. All 28 residents, and at least 17 of 48 staff members tested positive.

On Nov. 19, the Canadian Armed Forces arrived in the northern Manitoba First Nation, about 520 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, to provide additional support to staff and residents.

In total, 12 soldiers with medical training from CFB Edmonton were deployed to assist care home staff, Sinclair said.

Military thanked with traditional gifts

On Friday, when it was announced that all 27 residents and staff had been cleared for the virus, the soldiers were thanked with a traditional ceremony.

Sinclair said chief and council, alongside care home staff gifted the soldiers traditional items such as mukluks and moccasins made by local artists.  

"Just a small way of saying thank you for your contribution," he said.

"They all had an opportunity to say a few words which was really a nice gesture, especially when we look at the history of the Canadian military with First Nations in Canada. We also see this as an opportunity to rebuild those relationships."

The military members will return to CFB Edmonton Sunday, Sinclair said. 

Sinclair said he is grateful to both the federal government and the military for mobilizing support quickly, so the home did not see the same level of devastation seen at other personal care homes in Winnipeg and Quebec.

A review of care home protocols will be conducted to see what procedures could be implemented or strengthened going forward, as the community continues to battle COVID-19.

"Everyone still has to remain diligent and respect the protocols that are in place, we have the lock down, we have the check points still in place." he said.

"We're not out of the woods yet."