For immediate release
March 12, 2020
Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) is issuing this update to outline the steps that are underway to assist Northern First Nations in preparing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The World Health Organization announced yesterday that COVID-19 is now considered a pandemic,” said Grand Chief Settee. “MKO is committed to staying informed about this issue and will share relevant updates with the leaders of our First Nations. I 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 low, however, it is increasing. To help protect yourself and your family, I encourage everyone to wash their hands thoroughly on a regular basis and remind others to do the same. Travel is a concern at this time so be diligent in making travel plans, you may wish to reconsider travelling at a later date. You can also consider practicing social distancing, which can include staying away from crowds and large public events,” stated Grand Chief Settee.
“At MKO we are using a proactive approach to reduce our risk for COVID-19. We have increased the cleaning we do in our offices. I encourage First Nations to take the same steps—now is the time to be diligent in sanitizing and cleaning our spaces such as schools, office buildings, public transportation vehicles, and so forth,” shared Grand Chief Settee. “I have full confidence in MKO First Nations, which are taking the necessary steps to protect their citizens. MKO is ready to support our First Nations where needed.”
Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) 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.
“We are primarily concerned with making sure that our Northern families feel supported to take preventative measures at home in their communities,” stated Dr. Barry Lavallee, Medical Advisor for Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin.
Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin is working closely with Dr. Brent Roussin, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer; Dr. Michael Routledge, Medical Officer of Health, FNIHB Manitoba Region; and Dr. Michael Isaac, Public Health Officer, Northern Health Region. The organization’s clinical team also sits at a table that includes the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, the FNIHB at Indigenous Services Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the University of Manitoba, and the Canadian Red Cross. This group meets bi-weekly to ensure that the context for First Nations is considered as part of the provincial COVID-19 Incident Management System.