Manitoba

Red Sucker Lake First Nation 'panicking' after 18 households test positive for COVID-19: chief

The remote northern Manitoba First Nation has declared a state of emergency after people in 18 households, including the chief's, tested positive for COVID-19.

People ordered to stay home in fly-in community of 1,000, where others are now showing symptoms

The community's leadership is worried overcrowding in Red Sucker Lake will become a concern without more testing capacity in the community of about 1,000. There is currently only capacity to test one person per household. (Submitted by Samuel Knott)

A remote northern Manitoba First Nation has declared a state of emergency after people in 18 households, including the chief's, tested positive for COVID-19.

Red Sucker Lake First Nation has issued a full lockdown, the First Nation said in a news release on Saturday evening, requiring residents to stay home to reduce the risk of further spread in the fly-in community. 

"The community's panicking ... They're unsettled because of the outbreak that we're facing," said Chief Samuel Knott in an interview with CBC Manitoba.

Knott said in the release that the community's leadership is worried housing shortages and overcrowding in Red Sucker Lake will become a concern without more testing capacity in the community of about 1,000.

At this point, there's only enough capacity to test one person per household, he said.

"We're running out of options now. We need immediate support. I'm calling out to any resources who can help us to mitigate the crisis," he said.

Roughly 40 COVID-19 test kits are being flown into the community, where they'll be administered by nurses and physicians, the news release said.

The community has initiated its pandemic preparedness plan, with people set to provide door-to-door services including delivering food, water and sanitation supplies and disposing waste, the release said.

"We believe that these aggressive actions are necessary to keep our people safe," Knott said. "We ask our community members to respect and abide [by] the lockdown orders."

Knott and other officials in the community, including council members, are now self-isolating for 14 days "as transmission and contact are a concern at this time," the release said.

"Pretty much the whole community is close contacts," Knott said on Sunday.

The update comes as the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to help fight a COVID-19 outbreak Shamattawa First Nation, another remote Manitoba community. Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead said about 25 per cent of that community had tested positive for the illness.

Knott said some health-care workers in the community are concerned there will be more cases in Red Sucker Lake than Shamattawa, given the sheer number of people calling the nursing station reporting symptoms.

"It's very overwhelming," he said.

Earlier in the pandemic, Red Sucker Lake brought in lockdown measures and monitored travel in and out of the community, the release said.

Travel for health appointments were still allowed, though members travelling back into the community from appointments were tested for COVID-19 and mandated to stay in the community isolation house for two weeks.

"I thought we were doing okay. Everybody was doing well in the community until [Thursday]," Knott said.

Red Sucker Lake First Nation is located along the northeast shore of Red Sucker Lake near the Ontario border, roughly 540 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

With files from Rachel Bergen

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