Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation asks Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister a question during a news conference at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg on Nov. 7, 2017. Every resident and at least 17 staff members of a long-term care home on Sinclair's reserve have tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Manitoba reserve on lockdown after all residents at care home infected with COVID-19

Manitoba reserve on lockdown after all residents at care home infected with COVID-19

WINNIPEG — Every resident of a long-term care home on a northern Manitoba reserve where the number of infections almost doubled in a day has tested positive for COVID-19, says the Indigenous community’s leader.

All 28 seniors at the Rod McGillivary Memorial Care Home on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation have been infected and 17 of them are symptomatic, Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair said Monday.

At least 17 staff members have also tested positive, and others are isolating and monitoring for symptoms, he said.

The dramatic increase in cases has forced the reserve, about 520 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, to be put under lockdown. There were 63 active cases on Sunday but that had jumped to 124 by Monday.

“Our No. 1 goal is to stabilize and flatten that curve,” said Sinclair, who added the First Nation is investigating how the virus was able to spread within the care home so quickly.

Opaskwayak leaders have had daily talks with the federal government and Sinclair said he is considering whether to ask for help from the military. There’s significant pressure on the community’s front-line workers as health-care staff are pushed to the limit or are forced to isolate.

Opaskwayak Cree Nation provides health services to neighbouring First Nations also experiencing outbreaks. Sinclair said he’s in talks with Indigenous leadership and the nearby town of The Pas to deal with pressures being put on the northern health-care system.

Northern Manitoba and its First Nations communities avoided the brunt of the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring. Months went by without new infections in the region.

But as the second wave began to creep into Manitoba over recent months, it’s becoming clear the First Nations population has not been spared.

The entire province moved to red on its pandemic response scale last week after deadly outbreaks in care homes and a significant increase in infections. There were a record-breaking 494 new cases Sunday.

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, warned Monday that hospitals across the province were pushing capacity.

The Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response team has been sounding the alarm that Indigenous people are facing more severe health outcomes if they are infected and have a higher rate of hospitalization.

“First Nations people are disproportionally impacted in new cases, active cases and those experiencing more severe outcomes,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson during the response team’s weekly update on Friday.

The team’s numbers showed 18 First Nations people had died since the beginning of the pandemic, seven in the last week alone. Anderson said the median age of First Nations patients who die of COVID-19 is almost a full decade younger than that of non-Indigenous Manitobans.

“Our need to act aggressively and act urgently is even beyond that for the rest of the population.”

Sinclair said Opaskwayak and neighbouring communities are working hard on contingency plans. But if infections continue at the current rate, significant help will be needed quickly.

The community is already converting a veteran’s hall into an isolation unit for 40 people. And it’s looking at doing the same in two schools.

“We have to be prepared as possible,” Sinclair said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2020.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Head coach Jason Chatwood, left, sports one of the Sylvan Lake Gulls’ first on-field hats next to Aqil Samuel, general manager and president of baseball operations, earlier this year.
Sylvan Lake Gulls ticket sales off to flying start

With the inaugural season quickly closing in, the Sylvan Lake Gulls hit… Continue reading

Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s chief medical health officer publicly criticizes staffer who leaked info

EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, dealing with rocketing COVID-19… Continue reading

The RCMP major crimes unit is investigating after a person was found dead at a residence on Stewart Street in Red Deer’s Sunnybrook neighbourhood Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Red Deer RCMP investigating suspicious death in Sunnybrook

A ‘deceased adult’ was found by officers

A detail from Canyon Light, an oil painting by Joan Clement, in the Scale exhibit by members of the Red Deer Art Club. It’s showing at the Viewpoint Gallery in the city’s Culture Services Centre. (Contributed image).
Outdoor art gallery and scavenger hunt is on in Red Deer next month

But First Friday receptions and patio concerts are postponed

Mahomes vs. Brady spices up Thanksgiving holiday week

Mahomes vs. Brady spices up Thanksgiving holiday week

Cowboys miss chance for NFC East lead with another home loss

Cowboys miss chance for NFC East lead with another home loss

Arsenal, Leicester, Hoffenheim advance in Europa League

Arsenal, Leicester, Hoffenheim advance in Europa League

Keegan Messing performs during the Men's Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won't be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canada might not compete at world figure skating championships – if they happen

Canada might not compete at world figure skating championships - if they happen

A piece of hockey history is up for sale, with a rare Vancouver Millionaires sweater, seen in an undated handout photo, hitting the auction block. The cream and maroon wool cardigan is believed to have belonged to Hall of Fame goalie Hugh Lehman, who backstopped the Millionaires to a Pacific Coast Hockey Association championship in 1922-23. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Lelands Auction, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Hockey history up for sale as 97-year-old Vancouver Millionaires sweater hits auction

Hockey history up for sale as 97-year-old Vancouver Millionaires sweater hits auction

Canada’s Nembhard scores 11 points off the bench in Gonzaga debut

Canada’s Nembhard scores 11 points off the bench in Gonzaga debut

Mighty Heart is breezed by exercise rider Des McMahon, at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Woodbine Entertainment says it has officially cancelled the rest of its thoroughbred racing season following discussions with the Ontario government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Woodbine Racetrack ends horse racing season after talks with provincial government

Woodbine Racetrack ends horse racing season after talks with provincial government

As Alberta’s COVID-19 cases rise, so does tension over world junior championship

As Alberta’s COVID-19 cases rise, so does tension over world junior championship

Most Read