Military sent to Mathias Colomb Cree Nation amid COVID-19 outbreak

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed to a First Nation in northwestern Manitoba as early as Wednesday, a spokesperson from the department of national defence told CBC News.

Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Pukatawagan, has seen a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in the past week. There were 10 known active cases of the illness in the community last week, but that jumped to 101 cases as of Tuesday, according to Chief Lorna Bighetty.

A military team from CFB Shilo was sent to the First Nation last Sunday to assess the situation. Based on that assessment and request for help from the Manitoba government, the military is sending a 41-person team to the community, said a spokesperson for the federal department of national defence.

The team will be made up of medical staff from a field ambulance in Petawawa, Ont., and support staff from Manitoba. Part of the team will land in Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Pukatawagan, some time Wednesday, with the rest arriving Friday, the spokesperson said.

“CAF support will continue until the situation has stabilized and is manageable through local and provincial resources,” they said.

The team will integrate into the local emergency operations centre to coordinate efforts with leadership, help with potential COVID-19 immunization in the community and “patient management tasks,” such as triage and treating patients with COVID-19, the spokesperson said.

Team members will conduct wellness checks within the community, support the establishment of alternative isolation accommodations in the community, give “general duty and logistical support” such as humanitarian aid, and help make residents aware of public health measures in effect and COVID-19 vaccination programs, the spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross told CBC News that a five-person team will be sent to the First Nation “as soon as possible.”

Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Pukatawagan, is a remote community about 710 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg with a population around 3,000 people.