WINNIPEG -- Since the beginning of the pandemic, 75 of Manitoba’s First Nations citizens have died from COVID-19.

According to the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team (PRCT), 16 of these deaths have taken place in the last week.

First Nations people account for more than 22 per cent of the province’s total cases, with 5,049 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. In the past week alone, there’s been more than 800 new cases among the First Nations population – both on reserve and off reserve.

A total of 2,801 First Nations people have recovered from COVID-19.

On Friday, the PRCT reported that there are currently 104 First Nations people in the hospital with COVID-19, which account for 34 per cent of the province’s hospitalizations. It added that 20 of these people are in the ICU, accounting for 47 per cent of all COVID-19 admissions at this time.

The test positivity rate among Manitoba’s First Nations people is notably higher than the rest of the province. Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate is 13.6 per cent, with the First Nation’s population’s sitting at 22 per cent.

Dr. Marcia Anderson said surveillance is showing that First Nations cases in Manitoba are continuing to rise and are making up an increasing proportion of the total number of cases across the entirety of the province.

“We are not seeing case number go down for First Nations people,” she said.

“You might have heard that even though case numbers appear to be going down for all of Manitoba, that ICU admissions and hospitalizations have not shifted at all and we continue to make up 30 per cent or so of all hospital admissions and anywhere from 40 to 50 per cent of all ICU admissions.”

She described this as a “concerning trend” for First Nations people, with no evidence that things are starting to get better. 

As for how the virus is spreading, Dr. Jazz Atwal, the acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, provided an example from an unnamed First Nation where it’s believed the virus came from someone returning from Winnipeg.

“There was contact with that individual to a number of different households. A lot of these households have overcrowding issues, so when you're dealing with households, some of these households have 10 people in them,” said Atwal. 

“So, you can see how quickly the virus can spread.”

He said over two to four weeks, there can be exponential spread throughout the community.