Seven family members in York Factory First Nation have tested positive for COVID-19, chief says

One of the people who tested positive recently travelled to Winnipeg for medical care

A family of seven in York Factory First Nation (YFFN) at York Landing have tested positive for COVID-19, YFFN Chief Leroy Constant said in a Facebook post Sept. 27.

One of the family members travelled to Winnipeg for medical treatment, which is where the exposure to the virus is believed to have occurred.

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The positive tests were confirmed by Manitoba public health Sept. 28, after the initial results, obtained via rapid testing, were confirmed by a typical test completed at Cadham Provincial Laboratory.

“There’s been some questions about a delay in reporting on that,” said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin at a Sept. 28 news conference on the Manitoba pandemic. “Our standard process is to not report those out until they’re confirmed through the typical tests at Cadham Provincial Lab which is why we’re reporting it officially out today but there was no delay at all in actual public health involvement.”

Roussin also said that although the seven new cases were all close contacts, there is some concern that the number of cases in the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA) area has climbed from four to 15 in the space of less than a week.

“Right from the beginning of the pandemic we knew we had to what we can to protect those remote isolated communities,” said Roussin. “We do know that there’s been an increase in cases. Of course we’re concerned when we see that although we know this recent seven are all related to close contact.”

The initial exposure was first reported by YFFN Sept. 23. The community then went into a preemptive lockdown while other family members of the original person were tested.

“The household has been in school and around the community,” reads the statement from Constant.

The band office remains closed as of Sept. 28 and while the community’s store has been reopened, a limit of one person at a time allowed inside and mandatory mask use are in effect.

The ferry that brings people both into and out of the community was stopped and people have been asked to not enter or leave the community by boat or plane. Band constables were tasked with monitoring all travel in and out of the community.

“We will continue to do our best, day to day as we are faced with this pandemic,” said Constant in a Facebook post.

“I would like to send well wishes to the family that just received the news. Keep them in your prayers. Be kind to one another. Remember, we are all in this together. We all have a part to play. There is no ‘I’ in team. All of our staff are working hard to ensure that everyone is looked after. Just listen to the guidelines that we are put in place and we will be just fine.”

Garrison Settee, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), which represents 26 Northern Manitoba First Nations including YFFN as well as Tataskweyak Cree Nation, which also announced a resident with a confirmed case of COVID-19 last week, said he had faith in the abilities of the First Nations’ chiefs to deal with the situation and said that stigmatizing people who test positive for the virus achieves nothing.

“I have the utmost confidence in our leaders that they will continue to work diligently with public health to handle these cases and work to contain the spread of the virus,” said Settee in a Sept. 28 press release. “First Nations and Northern residents have worked extremely hard to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Northern Manitoba. I recognize the efforts shown by leaders and other residents to help prevent the transmission of this virus to our communities. I encourage all northern residents to remain vigilant but also to remember to be kind. There has been a lot of stigma attached to people who test positive for COVID-19. Anyone can test positive and there is no need to shame or stigmatize a person who goes for testing or who has the virus. Let’s continue to spread kindness and show support to anyone who becomes ill. It can happen to any one of us.”

- with files from the 

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