The Longlac Region First Nation reported 22 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with concerns about the community’s ability to respond.
As of Friday, 22 people had tested positive in the community of 535, Chief Judy Desmoulin said, including one involving a worrying COVID-19 variant.
The First Nation borders Longlac on Highway 11, approximately 200 kilometers northeast of Thunder Bay.
Two members had been sent to Geraldton District Hospital with severe symptoms, and another was on his way Friday afternoon, Desmoulin reported.
The First Nation had experienced two previous outbreaks since the start of the pandemic, but said the virus appeared to be hitting harder this time around.
“There are a lot of people who are not doing well,” she said.
The band council launched a community-wide lockdown requiring all members to take shelter in place on Thursday, also closing the community’s general store.
In the meantime, vaccinated First Nation workers will distribute food and other essentials to members.
However, Desmoulin said it was becoming difficult as contact tracing was putting more of those employees in isolation, with several being sent home on Thursday and Friday.
“It affects virtually every household in the community,” she said. “It limits our ability to serve the community, so I ask people to come and help me. “
She hoped that the declaration of a state of emergency would trigger special help from the federal and provincial governments to ensure the community the support it needs.
The chief also crossed her fingers that the experiment would improve the vaccination rate in the First Nation, which was below 50 percent, which she attributed to widespread misinformation online.
“After this outbreak, I hope people really reconsider their vaccine review – and a lot of people have come together now and said, ‘when is the next vaccination clinic’,” she said.