COVID-19 test positivity rate among First Nations people in Manitoba now over 20%

Health-care teams are being pushed to the brink as cases of COVID-19 among First Nations people in Manitoba climbed by 630 new cases in the last week alone and the test positivity rate climbed past 20 per cent, officials said Friday.

The latest numbers released by the Manitoba First Nations Pandemic Response Coordination Team bring the total number of cases identified among First Nations people in the province to 2,785. 

That number accounts for about 18 per cent of all the cases identified in the province since the pandemic began. 

Thirty-six deaths have been reported among First Nations people in Manitoba since the start of the pandemic, with nine in the past week alone, the pandemic response team said Friday.

Eighty-five First Nations people are currently in hospital with COVID-19, including 23 in intensive care.

That means First Nations people make up more than half of the total of 45 Manitobans in intensive care with the illness.

As of Friday, the five-day test positivity rate among First Nations people is sitting at about 21 per cent, more than five per cent higher than the provincial rate of 14.5 per cent and Winnipeg’s 14.2 per cent.

Dr. Marcia Anderson, who is part of the pandemic response team, said she has been hearing reports from community leaders that people are not adhering to the provincewide ban on gatherings.

She pointed out that the public health order applies to reserves as well, and urged people to stay in their homes.

“Those house gatherings are very high risk for transmission of COVID-19,” she said.

“At a time where our test positivity rate continues to be higher than even the province’s … we need to be the most diligent around following these orders so that we are doing the most that we can to protect our community members and elders.”

To date, more than two-thirds of Manitoba’s 63 First Nations have experienced COVID-19 cases. 

System maxed out

Melanie MacKinnon, who leads the pandemic response team established by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said health-care facilities and staff are at “max capacity” throughout First Nations in Manitoba. 

That includes air and ground ambulance transport, which is experiencing some delays due to the influx of COVID-19 cases. 

“I don’t mean to sound so sombre, but it is very very serious,” she said Friday during the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ weekly COVID-19 update via Facebook Live.

“We are at a critical time as it relates to our capacity to respond, our capacity to do more.”

Rapid response teams are now either in, or are about to arrive in, four communities to help them cope with outbreaks. 

A team is already in Moose Lake, while another arrived at Garden Hill First Nation on Thursday.

Teams were also arriving Friday in Gods River and at Shamattawa First Nation.

Mackinnon said it would be very challenging to manage if another community needs a response team in the next week.