Northern Manitoba communities working to stem tide of COVID-19 infections

Veronica Apetagon receives the Moderna vaccine as doses arrived in Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba on Jan. 7, 2021.
With vaccines on the way to Northern Manitoba, leaders of several communities believe COVID-19 is still being kept at bay despite rising numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

A spike in coronavirus cases over the holidays forced a northern Manitoba town to set a curfew last week.

Tom Matus, CAO of Lynn Lake, told Global News more than three dozen homes are still in a tight lockdown in the community of less than 500 people.

“We have a total of 38 households that are COVID positive, so they’re under isolation orders, out of a total of 209 houses in Lynn Lake,” Matus said.

The curfew has been set from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and Matus said Canada Task Force 4 has been helping with things like delivering groceries to residents who are in isolation.

Read more: Vaccine rollout in isolated First Nations a complicated process, Grand Chief says

“We’ve received outside help,” he said. “We also have four RCMP officers to ensure that people who are COVID-positive are staying isolated.

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“We also have about seven nurses in town who are doing COVID testing.”

The good news, Matus said, is it looks like the numbers have started on a downward trend.

“They are isolating themselves, staying off the streets, not congregating in large groups, keeping their masks on.”

Read more: Northern Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 immunization underway; chiefs describe some hesitancy

Lynn Lake isn’t the only northern Manitoba community struggling with high coronavirus numbers.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), which represents First Nations in the region, has been vocal about concerns regarding high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

In a press conference Tuesday, MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said despite the difficulties, he’s optimistic about the success vaccinating northern First Nations will have in stopping the virus.

“I think it is important to communicate the effectiveness of this vaccine rollout in our First Nations, because it has given us a renewed sense of hope and optimism,” said Settee.

“I think we have reached a pivotal point in our journey through this pandemic — like everywhere else around the world, we have tried our best to keep our communities safe, and we have done very well in spite of the high cases of COVID in our First Nations.

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“I think that we are more than determined than ever to protect our First Nations… this (vaccine) is a renewed sense of hope for all of us.”

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Racism and inequality during a pandemic – Jan 19, 2021

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