Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) will be heading into a Manitoba First Nation community dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
Cross Lake First Nation confirmed on Monday the CAF will be sending soldiers into the community on Tuesday for 14 days.
The community has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in February, reporting 258 total positive cases as of Sunday, Feb. 21. There have been 82 people that have recovered, while 176 cases remain active. Of the active cases, 87 were in children.
Chief Davis Monias told CTV News that half the contingency from the CAF arrived Tuesday morning.
Cross Lake said members of the armed forces will integrate with the community’s emergency operations centre to coordinate activities, conduct wellness checks in the community, and transport individuals to alternative isolation sites, among other duties.
The deployment will be assessed on days seven and 12, the community said.
Cross Lake has also asked the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to deploy a team of 30 people for up to 21 days to provide additional support, and is asking for the crisis team from the MKO to help deal with mental health concerns in the community.
Monias said many people have been sent out to alternative isolation accommodation sites.
“I think we are going to start seeing the numbers come down because these were big clusters of people with positive testing that went out, so that might come down,” he said.
“We asked today (Tuesday) if they’re going to be also testing other people who were not named as contacts and see what the result would be,” Monias added. “We haven’t received a response yet on whether that is going to happen or not.”
According to data released from Cross Lake last week, in the first week of February there were three events that brought together a number of people in the community. This includes a wake, a funeral, and a birthday party.
The First Nation noted there were at least 54 COVID-19 infections in people who attended these events, noting it includes children, elders and people with chronic illnesses.
“We’re not attributing the outbreak to any one incident,” said Monias. “I think it’s a combination of things. Whether you’re comfortable with the person next to you and you get rid of your mask or you shook hands or whatever. It could be anywhere.”
“So we haven’t really come forward to say these are the cause, we just know that these are the factors that helped increase the number of cases going around.”
Monias said the First Nation approves guidelines and policies for the pandemic for people to follow.
“People still have to grieve, people still have to celebrate but we are hoping people do it in a safe way by following the guidelines,” he said.
“It’s always up to each individual’s ability to comply with the rules and the guidelines. If people were to follow it, then most likely they would be safe most of the time. It’s not a guarantee they’ll be safe all the time.”
Right now the community is under a lockdown where there is no in-person visitation allowed. Monias said eight checkpoints have also been set up in the community that people have to go through to get from one area to the next.