In the past couple weeks, Northern Manitoba has seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 case numbers. There have even been several days where there have been more new cases in Northern Manitoba than in Winnipeg. Lynn Lake has been in the news recently due to the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. The community went from having no cases on Dec. 18 to around 10-15 on Jan. 5, to now having over 170 cases. Fifty households are in isolation out of the 209 total households in the community of around 500 residents and an outbreak has been announced at the local hospital as well. Two community residents have passed away, to whose friends and families I would like to extend my sincere condolences.
These numbers are concerning to many Northerners, including myself. It is important not to place blame on communities or their members for these outbreaks. Northern leaders have warned about an explosion of cases once COVID is introduced to a community, due to several factors that make spread more likely. In many northern communities, housing is an issue. These living arrangements makes it easier for the virus to spread and harder for people to isolate, due to an inability to socially distance. This pandemic has exposed the need for better, affordable housing, especially for those living in remote areas.
The lack of good housing is a major issue in First Nations communities, who have been some of the hardest-hit during the pandemic. More than half of Manitoba’s active COVID-19 cases are First Nations people, even though they only make up around 10 per cent of Manitoba’s population.
Despite these issues, outbreaks don’t mean that communities and their leaders are not acting – this is far from the truth. Unlike the provincial government, which has continued to be reactive throughout the pandemic and has continued to mess up vaccine distribution, First Nations leaders have been proactive in trying to prevent the virus from spreading into their communities and actively administering vaccines. Lynn Lake has imposed a curfew that is meant to help curb the spread of COVID. Other have also introduced strict lockdown measures and road checks to ensure travellers breaking public health restrictions aren’t entering their communities. These leaders have also been able to get the vaccine rolled out quickly and smoothly because they have been planning the rollout for months.
Myself and the other three northern NDP MLAs all recently sent a letter to the new minister of health and seniors, Heather Stefanson, calling on her government to improve their northern and rural vaccination plan. Specifically, we wanted her to provide an urgent plan to vaccinate all northern and rural Manitobans along with ensuring that there will be vaccination clinics in each community. The leader of the provincial NDP, Wab Kinew, also sent a letter to chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin asking for a meeting with MLAs to discuss the current high case counts in the north and the vaccine plan for the north. It is my hope that these meeting requests are accepted so your questions and concerns can be addressed.
Please continue abiding by public health restrictions and show support to communities and people who have been impacted by COVID. Feel free to contact me with any concerns at Danielle.email@example.com or by calling me at 204-677-2744.