The Northwestern Health Unit says shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed to every First Nation community in the area, and staff are working with partner agencies to administer doses over the two weeks after their latest vaccine allocation.

This comes as the region was moved into a Red-Control level of COVID-19 restrictions earlier this week. Medical Officer of Health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, says the move to a higher level of restrictions wasn’t unreasonable after a rise in cases in the Kenora area. 

“At this point, there is an increasing number of cases in the Kenora Health Hub area. That’s partly driven by some cases on First Nation communities. While case numbers are increasing, it’s not increasing at a very fast rate. We are monitoring the situation really closely.”

The community of Grassy Narrows First Nation is presumed to be one of the communities affected. They've reported they've been under a lockdown for the majority of the month after their first positive case of the virus was confirmed on March 3. As of March 13, the community had reported a total of 26 active cases.

Restrictions in the Grassy Narrows community include no visitors being permitted and residents are being asked to stay in their homes, with a curfew in effect between 9:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day. Leadership has since organized deliveries for residents in need.

“Case and contact management is ongoing and has been going fairly well,” adds Young Hoon. “With COVID-19, once you identify a case, there’s often spread occurred already at least within the household. We’re monitoring the situation really closely and we’re supporting our partner agencies with cases on First Nation communities.”

Young Hoon notes across the Kenora area as a whole, the rise of COVID-19 cases has been linked primarily to household interactions and residents not following public health measures, a major reason why we were placed into the Red-Control tier on Monday.

“The Red-Control restrictions are more useful for our catchment area primarily because there are some limits around informal gathering sizes. Most of our spread occurs between households. Households that gather together in groups of 3 or 4 households, who aren’t following public health measures.”

Residents are asked to only go out for essential reasons like work, school, essential shopping, health care, or exercise. There are gathering limits of 5 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, with specific capacity limits for certain types of businesses.

“Part of it is related to the usefulness of the Orange-Restrict restrictions in our catchment area. The Orange restrictions don’t have a major impact on our catchment area. Often, the limits they put are more applicable to a larger urban centre with larger public spaces.”

As of March 16, the NWHU has reported a total of 585 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1 death, with 76 cases considered active.

Young Hoon notes the health unit’s COVID-19 reporting data has changed and will now be more specific when it comes to cases of COVID-19 within communities, as their daily case numbers are now large enough to protect the identities of the positive cases.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with a positive case should self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.

For more information:
Rickford: Rising COVID-19 numbers ‘disturbing’
Northwestern Health Unit region moving into Red-Control as of Monday