COVID-19 in Indigenous communities: New cases continue to climb in First Nations
Indigenous Services Canada signs agreement to get rapid testing kits in First Nations
There are 197 active cases of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves across Canada as of Oct. 13, according to data from Indigenous Services Canada.
In an update released Oct. 9, the federal department said it is working to support access to point-of-care testing in First Nations communities. The federal department signed an agreement with Abbott Rapid Diagnostics to purchase up to 20.5 million Panbio COVID-19 Antigen rapid tests. The test kit, about the size of a toaster, can provide results within 13 minutes.
In the last week, 158 new cases were reported on-reserve. It marks the highest new number of cases affecting Indigenous communities thus far in the pandemic.
New cases continue to surge in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
A spike in new cases was also reported in Six Nations of the Grand River in southern Ontario over the Thanksgiving long weekend. Ohsweken Public Health confirmed 14 active cases and 33 probable cases associated with private gatherings in the community.
"Our health care staff are exhausted, and contact-tracing is not yet complete. Health care perspectives and advice can't be ignored; they are working around the clock to keep us safe," said Lori Davis Hill, director of health services at Ohsweken Public Health, in a statement Tuesday.
There have been a total of 880 cases on-reserve since the pandemic started. Six additional hospitalizations were reported since last week bringing the total to 66, and the number of deaths remains at 13. A total of 670 First Nations people have recovered from the disease.
Total cases on First Nations reserves per region reported as of Oct. 13:
- British Columbia: 169
- Alberta: 336
- Saskatchewan: 133
- Manitoba: 81
- Ontario: 98
- Quebec: 63
More cases of COVID-19 on Little Grand Rapids First Nation were reported in Manitoba. As of Oct. 11, 30 people tested positive, triggering a special response from the federal government including setting up two isolation tents and sending teams from the Canadian Red Cross. Clementine Keeper, an Anishinaabe woman who lives in Winnipeg, sent 280 bags of hand-picked cedar sprigs to the First Nation. So far, seven First Nations in Manitoba have reported cases of COVID-19: Peguis First Nation, Little Grand Rapids, Poplar River, Sagkeeng First Nation, York Landing, Split Lake and Fisher River First Nation.
The mayor of Prince Albert, Sask., and the chief of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation said the organizers of Prince Albert church meetings that have been tied to a regional outbreak of COVID-19 should be fined by the provincial government. The province did fine the Full Gospel Outreach Centre $14,000 for breaking COVID-19 health guidelines.
A multi-phased wellness campaign that targets First Nations in northern Manitoba launched a public service announcement encouraging flu vaccinations. Developed by Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin, the campaign is to promote wellness and the ability for people to fight off infections like COVID-19.
Stanley Mission, a First Nation in northern Saskatchewan, has closed many of its buildings and blocked the road into the community after an increase in COVID-19 cases. The Lac La Ronge Indian Band reported six confirmed cases, with 92 close contacts to those who tested positive, many who live in Stanley Mission.
The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority, which serves Indigenous communities in northern Saskatchewan, is warning of COVID-19 exposures at two mass gatherings in Saskatchewan's north. Both exposures happened at funerals or wakes in Pelican Narrows and Waterhen Lake.
As the B.C. government developed an essential services list in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, bureaucrats tangled with how to justify ongoing construction of major industrial projects like Site C and LNG Canada, according to documents obtained by CBC News. Internal communications show government staffers worked to rationalize allowing these projects to keep going amid widespread closures in other areas and calls from First Nations leaders and others to shut them down.
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
- fatigue or weakness
- muscle or body aches
- new loss of smell or taste
- gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
- feeling very unwell
If you think you may have COVID-19, please consult your local health department to book an appointment at a screening clinic.
CBC Indigenous is looking to hear from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit who have contracted COVID-19. If you would like to share your experience, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.