Teamwork needed in COVID-19 fight, says Pimicikamak Chief

Days after the northern Manitoba First Nation went into lockdown, efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Pimicikamak have resulted in two straight days without someone in the community testing positive for the illness, said Chief David Monias.

“We’re managing it,” Monias said, adding that the community has been using rapid COVID-19 testing to identify cases and trace their close contacts quickly. “I think we’ve flattened the curve, that we were able to get people isolated at home.”

As of Saturday, cases linked to the community numbered 23, including 15 in the community also known as Cross Lake Cree Nation and eight out of town, he said. Two people are in hospital.

Roughly four people have recovered, and 10 are away from home in alternative isolation accommodations, Monias said.

Cases in the northern community followed a funeral attended by someone who didn’t have symptoms but later tested positive for the illness, health officials said earlier this week.

The community was moved to the critical red level on Manitoba’s pandemic response system on Tuesday.

Recent restrictions brought into the community — where no one is allowed to enter or exit the First Nation and community members must stay home except to go out for essentials like groceries — have helped slow the spread of COVID-19, Monias said.

RCMP and safety officers in the community have been able to set up check stops and send people home if needed, he said.

Monias said the lockdown measures have taken a toll on him personally and on the community at large.

“It’s tiring,” he said. “Constantly being on call, hardly any sleep, people calling at night time. And people who are COVID-positive are calling and basically needing support that everything’s going to be fine.”

The Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Rapid Response Team has arrived on Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake) to test community members for COVID-19. Some of them are community members who came home to their First Nation to help, according to a Facebook post from Chief David Monias. (jebits/Facebook)

He said one of the biggest things people in Pimicikamak have to focus on is working together to follow public health recommendations and stop COVID-19 from spreading further.

“Teamwork is a really big thing for our community,” Monias said. “We have to fight it together, and we realize that. And that’s what we’re doing.”

He said that includes making sure people experiencing homelessness in the community have somewhere they can self-isolate if needed — something he hopes to get additional government support to help with.

In the community of roughly 8,600 people, there are only about 1,200 houses, Monias said. Because of the long waiting list for housing, people in the community will often take others in, even if their house is already overcrowded.

While Monias said he hopes the community will get a handle on its COVID-19 cases and move back down to the restricted orange level of the pandemic response system, he said it will be important for people to stay vigilant until the pandemic is over.

“We still have to be cautious until we get a cure or a vaccine,” he said. “We can’t let our guard down.”

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