Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases reported in First Nations communities across the country. The number of reported active cases reached a new all-time high this week in First Nations communities in provinces with 5,571 active cases reported as of January 19, 2021, with weekly numbers of newly reported cases fluctuating between 1,753 to 2,046 since the beginning of the new year.
Even with the arrival of vaccines, it is essential that everyone continue to follow public health measures including physical distancing, wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and non-essential travel, staying home when sick, and keeping up with frequent hand, cough and surface hygiene. The combination of all these public health measures are required to stop the spread of the virus.
In First Nations communities, as of January 19, ISC is aware of:
- 13,873 confirmed positive COVID-19
- 5,571 active cases
- 8,182 recovered cases
- 120 deaths
There are a total of 39 confirmed positive cases in Nunavik, Quebec, and all but 8 have recovered. As of January 19, the Government of Nunavut is reporting no active cases and a total of 266 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the 266 reported cases, 265 people have recovered from the virus.
Out of 60 long-term care and related facilities on-reserve, 9 have been affected by COVID-19, in Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec with 89 cases among residents and a case fatality of 15 out 89 or 17 per cent as of January 19, 2021. ISC supports community efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in these facilities, including through inspection, supporting infection prevention and control measures, and access to personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiling, cleaning supplies provision, outbreak response support, and training and vaccine prioritization. ISC has allocated $186.8 million, over two years, to support needs and gaps in long-term care facilities and to provide additional home care in Indigenous communities to help protect Elders from COVID-19. ISC is encouraged by the vaccine roll-out at a number of long-term care facilities. Oneida First Nation in Ontario, for example, has advised that vaccination at the Tsi Nu Yoyantle Na Tuhuwatisni Oneida Long Term Care Home was nearly 100 per cent complete.
Vaccines continue to roll-out and, as of January 14, 2021, 765,100 Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been distributed across the country. The rollout of the vaccines to many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities has started. Vaccine administration continues within communities, thanks to the commitment of Indigenous leadership and health experts, and federal, provincial, Indigenous collaboration, including on logistics and data sharing. To date vaccination has begun in 169 communities for First Nations or Inuit in all provinces and territories except Nova Scotia and PEI. In all three territories, immunization clinics have started, aiming to reach three-quarters of the adult population with two doses of the vaccine by the end of March. There are many stories of vaccination successes across the country, and while some jurisdictions are experiencing challenges, they are short term and ongoing collaborative planning will ensure readiness when the vaccine arrives into communities, including urban Indigenous communities. Every person in Canada who chooses to be vaccinated will have access to one.
A number of communities are experiencing mounting cases, and ISC is taking measures to mitigate risks, including meeting regularly with local health services in Indigenous communities and engaging with provincial and other federal department representatives in an effort to assess on-going community needs. ISC is also actively sending PPE, including hand sanitizer to communities, and is working with community health services to provide surge capacity and testing. ISC is also assisting to resolve food security issues in communities at risk. In other northern communities, such as in Nunatsiavut and Manitoba, the Canadian Armed Forces Rangers are also providing support to community members receiving their first dose of the vaccine.