WINNIPEG -- Health officials have announced the first COVID-19-related death among Manitoba’s First Nations.

On Friday during a Facebook live event, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, along with the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team gave an update on how the pandemic is impacting First Nations.

Leona Star, director of research for First Nations Health, said the first death is a person over the age of 70, but would not provide further details to protect the person’s privacy.

“We’ve experienced our first loss because of COVID, and we knew it was a matter of time,” said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

“It is impacting our communities. It is going all over the province. It is affecting everybody. It doesn’t discriminate, and now we’ve lost one of our community members.”

Star said as of Thursday, there have been 85 active cases on reserves, and the number of recovered cases is at 41.

Star said since the start of the pandemic, more than 280 total COVID cases have been identified among First Nations in Manitoba. They include:

  • 151 cases in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority;
  • 95 cases in the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority;
  • 20 cases in the Northern health region;
  • 10 cases in the Southern Health – Santé Sud region; and
  • Five cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

She said of the total cases, six per cent are travel-related, and 71 per cent are from contact with a known positive case.

She said nearly half (47 per cent) of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 reported an underlying illness. Star said this is much higher compared to the rest of the province, which has 34 per cent of positive cases reporting underlying illnesses.

Star said the number of tests among First Nations has increased. There has been a total of 23,548 tests done since the pandemic – which represents about 11 per cent of Manitoba’s overall tests.

She said there have been 442 First Nations people named as close contacts throughout the pandemic.

“We are seeing more COVID cases across the province including into our First Nations communities,” said Dr. Michael Routledge, the province’s First Nations and Inuit Health medical officer.

“We are seeing this when people are clustering particularly in large gatherings – that’s where we see large number of cases that can occur.”

Routledge said people need to keep following the COVID-19 fundamentals, cut down on large gatherings, and keep contacts to those within your household.