For immediate release
January 14, 2021
Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this statement to respond to data showing that Northern Manitoba is experiencing high numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst residents.
“I am very concerned to see the high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in Northern Manitoba,” stated Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “We are waiting for more information from our government partners at Indigenous Services Canada and the Northern Regional Health Authority regarding the epidemiology on why we are seeing such high rates of COVID-19 in the North. We are not aware of what exactly is driving these growing numbers, but we are absolutely concerned about the health and wellness of citizens in MKO First Nations.”
“Today we continue to recommend that citizens in Northern Manitoba continue to follow public health measures,” said Grand Chief Settee. “We encourage everyone to continue to avoid gathering with anyone from outside of your own household. Do not invite visitors into your home while we are under code red restrictions. Stick to the basics, such as practicing good hand hygiene, wearing a mask when you are going in public places such as the grocery store, and staying six feet away from other people when you are in a public space. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, be sure to seek out testing for the virus as soon as possible.”
“This continues to be a challenging time for mental wellness. We recommend that families work to support one another during this difficult time. If restrictions allow it, one thing you may wish to do is to get out onto the land and be active on a daily basis. Physical activity is very useful in helping us to maintain our mental wellness at this time,” said Grand Chief Settee.
“In cases where people are passing away, we continue to recommend people find creative ways to honour the lives of their loved ones. We are not able to hold large funerals while we are in code red,” stated Grand Chief Settee. “Online memorials are ideal in communities that have access to Internet connectivity. Some families are also choosing to delay their in-person memorials until it is safe to do so.”
“First Nations leadership have always been worried about the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 virus would have on our communities once it arrived in Northern Manitoba,” shared Grand Chief Settee. “We have multiple ongoing systemic issues we need to address that exacerbate the impact of COVID-19 on our citizens. These are issues such as a lack of housing, a lack of access to robust health care services in our communities, and a Boil Water Advisory that impacts one’s ability to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. We will continue to advocate and seek support for mental wellness supports, more housing, and an increase in access to health services.”
For more information:
Melanie Ferris, MKO Communications
Email: [email protected]
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that has represented 26 First Nation communities in Manitoba’s North since 1981. The MKO represents more than 72,000 First Nations people.