Northern Manitoba accounts for highest proportion of active COVID-19 cases in province
New COVID-19 infections are rising in Manitoba’s north, with the Northern Health Region now accounting for the highest proportion of active COVID-19 cases in the province.
Right now, there are 963 active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, with 38 per cent of all active cases within the Northern Health Region, even as the region’s vaccine uptake is above 84 per cent.
In comparison, 22 per cent of active cases are in the Southern Health Region and 19 per cent are from the Winnipeg Health Region.
The rate of new COVID-19 infections in the Northern Health Region has been rising and one community is experiencing its first outbreak of the virus.
On Thursday, community leaders in Norway House Cree Nation, currently dealing with 84 active COVID-19 cases in a population of about 8,000, said the recent surge of new cases were due to community spread that originated from outside the community.
Lack of housing infrastructure in the community and access to health services helped the virus spread quickly.
“Overcrowded homes, lack of proper heat and ventilation, inadequate washrooms and healthy space for families are contributing to the pandemic emergency,” said Norway House Cree Nation Chief Larson Anderson in a statement.
Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr, who has worked with a number of northern remote communities, said these are problems seen across the region and are likely contributing to the recent spike in cases.
“It’s very difficult when you’re in a more isolated or remote community to have enough staffing capacity to help with healthcare emergencies,” said Carr.
Carr adds that a lack of adequate housing, forcing community members to live in close quarters with no space to self-isolate if infectious, is likely exacerbating the problem.
“Infrastructure is key,” said Carr. “When you’re in an overcrowded house, there’s just nowhere to go.”
The province is aware of the rising case count in the north and officials said Friday that action is being considered.
“We’re looking at the numbers,” said Health Minister Audrey Gordon. “We have… recently approved dose three for First Nations personal care homes. We’re looking at possibly broadening that but no final decision has been made yet.”
Rising COVID-19 infections within First Nation communities isn’t an issue isolated in the north.
According to figures provided on Thursday during the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs weekly COVID-19 update, 54 per cent of all active COVID-19 cases in Manitoba are among First Nation community members across all health regions.
Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead with the Manitoba First Nations Pandemic Response Team, said vaccine hesitancy and a large number of First Nation youth that are ineligible for inoculation are contributing to rising case rates.
Community spread is also a major factor, she said.
“We continue to see more spread related to gatherings, particularly indoor gatherings, where we hear afterwards people aren’t masking or there were lots of people there,” Anderson said Thursday.