A northern Manitoba community is exploring the possibility of a curfew to deal with a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
Lynn Lake is a town of about 475 people in northern Manitoba, and right now, approximately one-quarter of the people who live there are COVID-19 positive.
“As of yesterday (Wednesday), there were 121 active cases, we have 35 out of 209 houses in isolation,” said Tom Matus, the town’s chief administrative officer.
Matus told CTV News the increase in cases happened quickly. He said on December 18, there were no cases, but by January 5, there were between 15 and 20 cases, which has steadily increased.
“I guess all this obviously happened over the Christmas holidays, because after 14 days all these COVID cases have started to arise,” said Matus.
Matus said the town is considering a curfew at a meeting Thursday night.
“We believe this will plateau in the next week or so,” he said.
“So we just want to ensure that no more people catch the virus so that we can get more of a handle on it and see the numbers go down.”
Matus said there aren’t a lot of people out on the streets anyway, noting people are taking the situation to heart and the town is pulling together.
Matus said the town is reiterating the same messages it was promoting before the spike — asking people to stay home, asking businesses to reduce the number of people allowed inside, wear masks, and only go out if it’s essential.
“Of course people now see, you know, there is a major explosion here of cases.”
A government spokesperson confirmed with CTV News that a small team from Canada Task Force 4 (CAN-TF 4) is on its way to Lynn Lake.
CAN-TF 4 is an urban search and rescue team run out of the Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner.
Matus says the team will be helping with the distribution of food and supplies to houses that are under isolation orders.
According to provincial COVID-19 numbers from Wednesday, 40 per cent of Manitoba’s active cases are in the Northern Health Region.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. put out a statement Thursday evening calling for action to address ongoing systemic issues impacting the health of northern citizens.
“I am very concerned to see the high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in Northern Manitoba,” MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in the press release.
“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.”
MKO encourages people to follow the public health measures and stick COVID-19 basics, like hand washing, wearing masks and staying home when ill.
“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,” said Settee.
Settee also said First Nations leadership have always been worried about the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 virus would have on Northern Manitoba communities.
“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.”