COVID-19 in Indigenous communities: What you need to know

A weekly COVID-19 update for Indigenous communities in Canada.

Vaccination rates for those 12 and over is nearing 90%

Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead of Manitoba First Nation pandemic response team, said First Nations should continue to implement their own public health guidelines as they see fit. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

While many provinces are moving toward life without restrictions, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs pandemic response team wants First Nations in Manitoba to know they still have the power to make their own decisions.

"There may be times when communities want to consider, for example, reintroducing capacity limits or gathering-size limits," said Dr. Marcia Anderson, one of the Indigenous medical experts leading the Manitoba First Nations pandemic response team. 

"We'll certainly be happy to support them with our best public health guidance at the time, depending on what variants are circulating, as well as what the data is showing."

Anderson said that her team is closely monitoring variants of concern, like Omicon subvariant BA.2, and having First Nations specific data allows the team to be proactive and responsive when it comes to dealing with outbreaks.

Vaccination rates close to 90%

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) said that as of March 16, the department is aware of a total of 3,037 hospitalizations in First Nations communities due to COVID-19, and 682 deaths.

According to data from ISC, there were 2,581 active cases of COVID-19 reported in First Nations as of March 16. This is down from the 2,690 active cases reported as of March 9. Case numbers may be understated as some provinces limit access to COVID-19 tests. 

To date, ISC is aware of a total of 12,909 cases in First Nations communities due to the Omicron variant: 7,423 in Eastern Canada and 5,486 in Western Canada. A total of 134 First Nations have reported cases of the strain.

As of March 16, over 88 per cent of individuals aged 12 and older in First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities have received a second COVID vaccine dose, and 28 per cent have received a third dose.

The government of Nunavut said that as of Mar. 15, there were 319 active cases of COVID-19 in 20 of its communities. 

To date, there have been 3,331 confirmed cases in Nunavut, 3,007 recovered cases and five deaths. Nunavut says 28,510 people have received at least two doses of the vaccine.

Total cumulative COVID-19 case numbers in First Nations per region:

  • British Columbia: 8,497

  • Alberta: 19,235

  • Saskatchewan: 15,686

  • Manitoba: 22,641

  • Ontario: 13,837

  • Quebec: 8,343

  • Atlantic: 3,068

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What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

  • New or worsening cough.

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

  • Temperature equal to or over 38 C.

  • Feeling feverish.

  • Chills.

  • Fatigue or weakness.

  • Muscle or body aches.

  • New loss of smell or taste.

  • Headache.

  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting.

  • Feeling very unwell.

If you think you might have COVID-19, please consult your local health department.