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COVID-19 test positivity rate climbing for Manitoba First Nations on reserve

Click to play video: 'Northern communities taking precaution after rising COVID-19 cases'
Northern communities taking precaution after rising COVID-19 cases
COVID-19 cases are climbing across the province, and it has some remote First Nations communities taking extra precaution as they move back into level red. Marney Blunt reports – Oct 8, 2021

Daily COVID-19 case numbers and test positivity rates are on the rise across the province as Manitoba enters a fourth wave, and it’s showing signs in some northern First Nations communities as well.

Mathias Colomb Cree Nation went into level red on the province’s pandemic response system Thursday. Residents can only leave home for essential reasons with exceptions for fishing and hunting.

On Friday, the small northern community had 90 active cases. It’s a similar scenario in Norway House Cree Nation, which had 70 active cases as of Friday.

Read more: Remote Indigenous communities working with feds on mandatory COVID-19 vaccine exemptions

Dr. Marcia Anderson, the public health lead of Manitoba’s First Nations pandemic response co-ordination team, said that from Monday to Thursday this week, there were 88 new cases on reserve. She said the rising numbers across the province are concerning.

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“I am concerned because often once our numbers start to rise, we see the severe outcomes a week or two later,” she said during an Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs COVID-19 response update Thursday.

“It’s really important we don’t let our guard down.”

Anderson says as of Thursday, the test positivity rate for First Nations on reserve was 8.4 per cent, while off reserve was 5.2 per cent. The province’s overall test positivity rate is 3.4 per cent.

She also says while high vaccination levels will blunt the fourth wave, she would like to see higher uptake in some First Nations communities.

Read more: Indigenous teens performing Jingle Dress Dances for COVID-19 patients receive gift for efforts

“On reserve, there are about 27,500 First Nations people who are 12 or over, who need either one or both doses to be fully vaccinated,” she said. “This is going to have significant public health impacts in terms of reducing transmissions chains and reducing likelihood of outbreaks.

“I think it’s important to note that about 15,000 of those people are in the 12-to-29-year-old age group.

“So when we think about young parents or school-aged kids and school-associated cases, it’s really important that we’re reaching out to anyone who needs one or two doses, but especially in that age group to try and increase the vaccine coverage.”

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