Shamattawa goes to war on COVID-19 as cases rise, army deploys

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In the freezing cold, residents of Shamattawa First Nation are fighting a battle against COVID-19. On the front lines, Karl Canabie, 18, was hired to guard a school where those who tested positive were locked inside.
Canabie’s job is to make sure they stay indoors, allowing everyone to go outside for five minutes at a time to get some fresh air.

“I’ve been working here for about a week and four days and I’m watching these guys so they don’t have to run away and do them a favor,” Canabie said during her shift on Sunday, which started to work. 4 am.

Canabie and the community received help on Sunday after more Canadian Armed Forces members arrived aboard a Hercules along with dozens of soldiers and medics from Edmonton. They were unloading PPE and other supplies.

Their arrival comes after Shamattawa chief Eric Redhead appealed for help in late November.

With a population of around 1,300, it is the hardest-hit Manitoba community, with recent test positive rates hovering between 70 and 80 percent.

The first group of soldiers arrived on December 6. The second wave arrived on Sunday evening, bringing the number to just under 60. Troops will carry out health checks, deliver food baskets and conduct contact tracing.

They will also help bring relief to people like Canabie and keep watch over the makeshift isolation center. In an effort to stop the spread of the disease, those who have tested positive and cannot isolate themselves properly at home have been urged to attend school.

A family from the Shamattawa First Nation poses for a photo through their window. Overcrowded homes like the one above have been blamed for a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in the remote community. (Tyson Koschik / CBC)

Shamattawa chief Eric Redhead said about a third of the population of around 1,300 people living on the reserve have tested positive, but because of the difficulties in getting people tested, he believes the real number is much higher.

He said the contact tracing carried out on people who have tested positive so far has set off the alarm bells.

“Literally, the whole community has a right to contact because we are so confined. We have a school, a grocery store. ”

Rhonda Miles doesn’t have to look far to find someone she loves who has fallen ill after contracting COVID-19.

The Shamattawa First Nation resident says her elderly mother tested positive after developing a cold, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. She is still fighting the virus.

“We are concerned about being COVID. I’m afraid my children will get sick, ”she said.

Shannahan Redhead helps ensure isolated families have access to food. (Tyson Koschik / CBC)

Canabie said he lived with seven people in a house and most of his cousins ​​were infected with the virus. Overcrowding is one of the reasons some residents isolate themselves at school, which is currently not used for school as students learn at home.

The army transformed the community school into an isolation and emergency command center. People who test positive are placed in the gymnasium.

People who do not have the virus but need to self-isolate but cannot at home, usually due to overcrowding, are placed in empty classrooms. The soldiers sleep in adjoining rooms.

For the troops, the deployment is unusual. Last year, for example, they were in Latvia on an operations mission in support of NATO. Now they have been sent to help their fellow Canadians in their own country.

“What is really unique about this is that we are helping Canadians in Canada. They are our people and we help each other at home, ”said Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Reekie, Commanding Officer of the Second Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light. Infantry.

Prior to the arrival of the military, there was a strong community effort on the ground from the Native-led Bear Clan Patrol, the Red Cross, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and volunteers like Shannahan Redhead.

Redhead, 22, delivers baskets to isolated people and helps those who do not have access to vehicles.

“They’re really happy because they can’t leave their house and they’re really scared to leave them because they don’t want to catch COVID,” he said.

“Many vulnerable people”

During the evenings, Redhead is on a night patrol to ensure people adhere to a mandatory curfew that is in place from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., restricting movement. If residents break it, they are fined $ 200.

Redhead said residents’ cooperation had been difficult. “No one wants to stay home and they want to go out and see their family,” he said.

Chief Eric Redhead, meanwhile, said that while the seniors were airlifted out of the community and placed in intensive care in Winnipeg, no one died. He said the timing of the COVID peak was not ideal – it was already an increase in tuberculosis last summer.

“We have a lot of vulnerable people living in the community, our elders and people with underlying health issues and an epidemic of TB. And you add COVID-19 to that. It can be very devastating and so we need to contain it as quickly as possible. . ”

He said he did not know how COVID entered his remote community, but he suspects it was from a returning member who was in Winnipeg for medical attention and then passed it on to others .

Dion and Rhonda Miles make the most of the time. They made a snowman with their children on Sunday for an online contest encouraging people to stay home. (Tyson Koschik / CBC)

Back at Miles’ home, the mother-of-two kept her kids at home on Sunday, participating in an online snowman-making contest.

Her husband Dion Miles is hopeful that when his wife and children are tested, the results will be negative.

“I pray that everyone will recover, improve and people listen to the protocols. ”

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