More military members may be headed to Manitoba first nation to help fight COVID-19 crisis, chief says
The Canadian Armed Forces have been called in to help Shamattawa First Nation, which has been hit hard by COVID-19. (Source: Twitter/@MarcMillerVM)
WINNIPEG -- Shamattawa First Nation is awaiting approval for additional support from the Canadian Armed Forces to help the community deal with a COVID-19 crisis, according to the community’s chief.
The CAF has completed its on-site assessment of the COVID-19 situation and more help is being recommended, Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead said on Thursday.
“I believe they’re done their reconnaissance, is my understanding,” Redhead told CTV News Winnipeg. “They’re recommending an additional 60 to 70 members.”
During a live update on COVID-19 among First Nations people, held on Facebook by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs over the noon hour Friday, Redhead said the community is just waiting for Ottawa to approve the mission.
“I haven’t had official approval yet but the (Indigenous Services) Minister says he’s reaching out to the defence minister now,” Redhead told the viewers of the event.
Redhead said 313 residents have been infected with COVID-19. That’s nearly a third of the population of the First Nation, which is located 745 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. But he worries the number’s much higher -- that’s because testing numbers have dropped in recent days. Local teams who’ve been transporting people to get tested in the community are now isolating themselves.
“We know the number’s significantly higher,” said Redhead, who urged people in his community to stay home and not gather. “Because we’re not able to do the large number of tests we’ve seen in the past we’re seeing just increments in growth.”
Overcrowded housing is a big issue in Shamattawa that existed long before the pandemic, a factor that can allow COVID-19 to thrive.
“We’re in one bubble,” said Redhead. “We have to consider everybody a contact in the community, just because we have one grocery store – it’s basically one big bubble.”
Indigenous Service Minister Marc Miller said Friday in Ottawa the armed forces continue to work alongside First Nation communities and provincial partners.
“We will continue to assess the requirement for military support in the area through on-the-ground reporting in coordination with our whole of government partners including public safety and Indigenous Services Canada,” Miller said at a media conference.
A team from Canadian Forces Base Shilo landed in the community Wednesday afternoon to determine what additional resources the community needs.
Redhead told CTV News Winnipeg on Thursday the armed forces has been assessing which buildings can be used to help aid the outbreak response.
He hopes the military will be able to help with additional wellness checks, delivering groceries, and setting up alternative isolation accommodations in the community. Redhead is also hoping for more medical help.
“Kind of the all-around help, which is exactly what we needed,” said Redhead. “I think out of the 60 or so members that are going to be coming, about 15 or 20 of them are going to be medics.”
He said while the prospect of additional help is giving him some hope, the community is still in a tough spot.
“Testing has taken a dramatic drop because of the lack manpower on the ground,” he said. “The rapid response team aren’t able to reach enough of those members.”
“We’re seeing more and more symptomatic people, with fevers, with coughs. That’s what we’re seeing now.”