For immediate release
March 18, 2020

Treaty One Territory, Winnipeg, MBGrand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) is issuing this update to outline four steps First Nations can take to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Northern Manitoba.

“We know that COVID-19 is a pandemic and we are working diligently to help protect the health of First Nations,” said Grand Chief Settee. “MKO is committed to staying informed about the novel coronavirus and has started sharing evidence-based updates with our First Nations. I want to encourage First Nations citizens to remain calm and not panic. Seek out reliable information and learn the precautionary measures you can take to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.”

“The risk of contracting COVID-19 in Northern Manitoba is increasing. I encourage everyone to learn what you can do to help slow the spread of this virus. Take action today,” urged Grand Chief Settee.

MKO is advising First Nations to take the following four steps:

  1. Promote social distancing and slow the spread of the virus by:
  • Postponing ALL social gatherings until further notice (churches, casinos, graduations, funerals, Bingos, treatment centres, birth celebrations, etc.)
  • Closing schools, day cares, and Head Start programs immediately
  • Reviewing your workforce. Suspend anyone age 60 and older (factors: age and co-morbidities) from seeing patients. Protect older staff at the community level as provincial guidelines don’t necessarily apply to First Nations people. Essential services are doctors and primary care nurses only.
  1. Limit the spread of the virus to our most vulnerable: Personal care homes should have limited to no visitors.
  2. Consider community isolation and controlling who goes in and out of the community, including members going to Brandon, Thompson, etc.
    One example of a First Nation already doing this is the Pimicikamak Cree Nation.
  3. Start planning for the possible influx of the virus into your First Nation—your empty schools are a resource. First Nations should start thinking about how to best use this resource. For example, they could potentially order cots and set up triage/treatment centres in the gym.

“We are strongly urging First Nations to consider adopting proactive measures at this time to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our communities,” shared Dr. Barry Lavallee, Medical Advisor at Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc. “We are concerned about our Elders, our babies, and people who have compromised immune systems. I encourage everyone to help protect our most vulnerable and I want to remind our leaders that MKO is ready to support our First Nations.”

Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch at Indigenous Services Canada are the lead organizations responsible for public health for First Nations in Manitoba. The role of MKO, via the newly established Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc., is one of support to Northern First Nations.

MKO is committed to providing up-to-date information on COVID-19 on our social media accounts and on a new webpage created for this purpose. You can find our COVID-19 webpage.