North passes 1,100 total COVID-19 cases and reports eighth death; virus outbreak strikes Shamattawa

An eighth Northern Manitoba resident has died from COVID-19, the provincial government announced Dec. 3.

The man in his 50s from The Pas/Opaskwayak Cree Nation/Kelsey health district was one of 12 deaths from the virus reported by the province on Thursday. Forty-two deaths have been announced in December and the total since the pandemic has now reached 353 after one previous case mistakenly reported as a death due to a data entry error was removed.

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The Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA) reported 48 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, including 17 in the Island Lake heath district, 12 in the Thompson/Mystery Lake health district and five in the Shamattawa/York Factory/Tataskweyak/Split Lake health district, though there are reportedly many more cases in the community of Shamattawa that have been identified by rapid testing but not confirmed by lab testing yet. Churchill-Keewatinook Aski NDP MP Niki Ashton said on Twitter that 91 cases of the virus have been identified in the community of Shamattawa and that there is a 50 per cent test positivity rate there currently. There are about 1,000 people in the remote fly-in First Nation near the Ontario boundary in northeastern Manitoba.

There were 60 active cases in Shamattawa on Nov. 30, according to the CBC, and measures in place to try to limit the virus’s spread included a mask mandate, a curfew and limits on the number of people allowed in the grocery store. More than 30 people were isolating off-reserve as of Monday, the same day Shamattawa First Nation Chief Eric Redhead called for the Canadian military to set up a field hospital and bring more medical help to the community. Indigenous Services Canada told the CBC Dec. 1 that a temporary isolation shelter has been sent to the community and officials were in contact with the community’s leaders.

“The community is experiencing an outbreak,” said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin during his Dec. 3 press conference. “We’re involved and seeing what further supports can be offered.”

Other new cases reported in the north Dec. 3 included four each in the Bunibonibee/Oxford House/Manto Sipi/God’s River/God’s Lake and The Pas health districts and two in the Grand Rapids/Mosakahiken/Moose Lake/Easterville/Chemawawin district.

Provincewide, 368 new cases of COVID-19 were announced on Thursday and there are 357 Manitobans in hospital due to the virus, 52 of them in intensive care. Twenty of the people hospitalized and four of the ICU patients are from the north, which has now passed 1,100 total cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the vast majority of them since the start of November. The number of active cases has been remaining relatively stable at between 400 and 500 as more cases are moved to recovered status.

The Pas health district has the most active cases in the north according to provincial testing data online, with 139, followed by Island Lake with 93, the Grand Rapids district with 64, the Shamattawa district with 54 and the Thompson district with 37.

The provincial test positivity rate on Thursday was 13.1 per cent provincially and 14.9 per cent in Winnipeg. Roussin said the rate in the north was also about 14.9 per cent but said the numbers aren't as reliable because the low number of total tests from the region makes the positivity percentage highly variable.

“We can’t put a lot of weight on the lower denominator,” said Roussin.

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