Manitoba First Nations on high alert following COVID-19 cases

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The top stories for the day for Global Winnipeg on Sept. 14, 2020 – Sep 14, 2020

Two neighbouring Manitoba First Nations communities in the Interlake are making safety their top priority, after reporting three COVID-19 cases on Friday.

Fisher River Cree Nation reported a COVID-19 case on Friday, which was the first known case of the virus on a Manitoba First Nation.

On Friday afternoon, two more cases were reported at nearby Peguis First Nation.

Read more: Fisher River, Peguis tests show first probable COVID-19 cases on Manitoba First Nations

“Regrettably, we know it was not ‘if’ but ‘when’,” Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs grand chief Arlen Dumas told Global News. “And unfortunately, ‘when’ is here — it’s upon us now.”

Dumas also says the communities are taking all the necessary precautions, and are handling the situation as best they can.

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“I get a little bit of faith in the strength of the leadership,” he said.

“The communities have shone really well. They’re going out on a limb on many things to do incredible work to keep their communities safe.”

Read more: Coronavirus: 2 Grand Chiefs call for reintroduction of northern Manitoba travel ban

But Dumas is also urging community members to do their part to curb the spread of the virus.

“I want to commend our communities, I want to commend our leadership, and I want to remind everybody (of) the responsibility we have as individuals as well to try and keep everybody safe and try to keep each other healthy, it’s very difficult,” Dumas said.

It was a statement echoed by Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson.

“It was pretty shocking, but also disappointing,” Hudson said. “But also the reality is we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”

“We were hopeful that the community would keep the virus out,” he added. “I know it’s up to individuals practicing the safety protocols of COVID-19 and we promoted that vigorously.”

Manitoba’s top doctor says the communities have been preparing for this for a long time now.

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“It was a tremendous amount of planning, and now this is coming into effect,” said Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin.

“So there’s a lot of testing going on, a lot of followup, and there is some work with the province and the region, but there was a lot of planning done with our First Nations partners to be able to respond to this.”

Fisher River and Peguis are approximately 190 km north of Winnipeg.

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