October 15, 2020 — Ottawa, Traditional Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada
In the last few weeks, Indigenous communities have been facing an alarming rise in the number of new and active COVID-19 cases.
The week of October 4-10 has seen the largest weekly increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities, with 126 cases reported as of October 14. This increase has been linked to large private and public gatherings in settings where physical distancing and wearing of masks were not observed.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities were successful in preventing, preparing and responding to the spread of COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic. Even in challenging times, everyone must redouble efforts and continue to follow the measures that saved many lives.
As of October 14, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is aware of these confirmed cases of COVID-19 for First Nations communities on reserve:
- 906 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19
- 209 active cases
- 66 hospitalizations
- 684 recovered cases
- 13 deaths
There are a total of 28 confirmed positive cases in Nunavik, Quebec, and 5 remain active.
The curve is not slowing down. In order to flatten the curve, individuals should continue to be careful and listen to the advice of public health experts. The more cases there are in the community, the greater the opportunity for the virus to be introduced into workplaces, schools and vulnerable settings like long-term care centres.
Public health measures remain the most effective way to flatten the curve. People must continue to
- Properly wear a mask or face covering when in public or around those at risk, especially when it is hard to maintain a physical distance.
- Limit contact to the same small circle of people and practice physical distancing with those outside the household.
- Create a supportive environment for people who are isolating to take care of their mental health, and minimize the stress and hardship associated with isolation.
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
It is important to underscore that COVID 19 can take up to 14 days after exposure to the virus for symptoms to appear. During this time, the virus can easily spread to others. This means that decisions made today affect families, friends and communities for weeks to come.
Everyone should familiarize themselves with the recommended public health guidelines outlined by their province or territory of residence, and/or by their community leadership. They are also encouraged to share the advice of public health experts, such as from the Public Health Agency of Canada, so that their friends and families are also well informed.
ISC will continue working with Indigenous leadership to flatten the COVID-19 curve in First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities as leaders are working to ensure their members have access to the most up-to-date public health information and services.
As of October 13, two relief shelters have been deployed within Little Grand Rapids First Nation. ISC provides assistance on a case by case basis through communication with communities who assess their individual needs. ISC is working closely with the Chief and Council of Little Grand Rapids First Nation, the First Nations Response and Pandemic Coordination Team, the Southeast Resource Development Council, and the Canadian Red Cross to coordinate resources in response to the community’s priorities.
It can be difficult to distinguish between the symptoms of the season flu and COVID-19. Fortunately, preventative measures in place for COVID-19, like handwashing, physical distancing, and wearing face coverings, are also effective at limiting the spread of the seasonal flu. Moreover, the annual flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu and flu-related complications. We know that vaccines save lives. They are important, effective and safe for protecting our health as well as the health of family and community members.
ISC recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant effect on the mental wellness of everyone. Mental wellness services that support Indigenous communities are essential. These services continue to respect public health measures with many shifting to telehealth or virtual approaches and being innovative in terms of service delivery.
The Hope for Wellness Help Line provides immediate, culturally safe, telephone crisis intervention, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in English and French, and upon request in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut.
ISC continues to work in partnership with Indigenous organizations and communities to support the adaptation and evolution of Indigenous-led mental wellness resources and services, during the pandemic and beyond.
Everyone has been impacted by the pandemic, and many of us are eager to return to our pre-pandemic lives. But now is our time to reach for a better future, our moment to build a stronger and more resilient Canada for everyone.