By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
While the end of provincial pandemic restrictions in Manitoba can make it seem like we have moved beyond COVID-19, strict restrictions remain in place in one northern community, while leaders say the virus continues to spread, and cases continue to spike.
“The pandemic is not over,” Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) Chief Marcel Moody warned the community’s approximately 3,000 on-reserve residents in a recent media release.
“Over 120 new cases have been reported over the past week, and we can safely assume the positive cases are higher, as not everyone is getting tested or reporting their positive test result to public health.”
Leaders in the remote and isolated community of NCN, located more than 850 kilometres north of Winnipeg, said strict “mitigation plans” are now in effect, despite the fact that all provincial COVID restrictions and vaccine requirements were dropped by the province back in March.
“Mitigation plans must be followed,” Moody said.
The community’s housing office is now closed to the public, while testing requirements at checkstops will be mandatory, and all residents must wear masks in workplaces.
The community said they will also have quarantine restrictions in place for anyone that tests positive for COVID.
“If you test positive you must isolate for at least five days, and then wear a mask for an additional 10 days,” Moody said.
Moody is now asking residents to use the same caution that all Manitobans were asked to use earlier on during the pandemic, before provincial restrictions were lifted.
“We all must quickly go back to following all of the fundamentals,” Moody said. “Always wear a mask around people, physical distance, limit contacts, sanitize, wash your hands frequently, get vaccinated and get tested if you have any flu or cold like symptoms or have had contact with anyone who tested positive.”
There may be some help coming to combat the spread of COVID and the severity of COVID cases in NCN, and in other First Nations communities across the province, as the province announced Friday that some adults in Manitoba, including all Indigenous adults, will be able to get a COVID-19 bivalent booster shot later this month.
The bivalent vaccine, which targets both the original strain of the coronavirus and the Omicron variant, was approved by Health Canada this week, and the province says appointments for the first eligible adults are expected to open up by the middle of September.
Along with Indigenous adults, the province said the first priority group for the COVID-19 bivalent booster will also include all health-care workers, all adults aged 65 and up, and people with certain medical conditions, or who live in personal care homes and other group settings.
-Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.