As more positive COVID-19 cases are confirmed in Onion Lake Cree Nation, the national health officer for First Nations in the region is reminding residents to follow public health guidelines to prevent the virus from spreading further in the community.
Dr. Ibrahim Khan, Chief Medical Health Officer for Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch in Saskatchewan, was invited to speak to residents about the current situation and what they can do to protect themselves and others in the community.
Khan says there are 92 active COVID-19 cases in Onion Lake Cree Nation with an outbreak spreading to the wider community. Khan adds the spread stems from domestic transmissions caused by household to household visits and gatherings.
“People are meeting each other. There are reports of backyard gatherings, parties and those sorts of things. Certainly, that led to the local domestic transmission and that is ongoing.”
He notes many cases involve large multi-generational families living in the same household and recommends them to do their best in quarantining those who’ve tested positive to certain parts of the home. Khan stresses that residents should not be visiting others during this time and people should stay within their immediate family bubble as the virus is being spread through domestic transmission.
“For this holiday season our message is no gathering whatsoever at the household level, at the workplace level, at all levels. There is no chance you can risk to further escalate the current situation as a province, as a nation and as a community.”
He commends leaderships action with the checkpoints, but reminds those working there that they are considered frontline staff and remind them to follow all health protocols and wear the proper personal protective equipment. Philip Chief, Director of Operations, says gates will be installed at certain checkstops around the community and the locations of the checkstops may be moved to key areas.
Khan says there are currently 704 total active cases in First Nation communities across the province with 61 communities declaring COVID-19 outbreaks. Fifteen are being treated in hospital with 5 of those in intensive care. There have been 11 deaths. He adds he is in constant communication with chiefs and council around Saskatchewan to support and advise them on actions that can be taken to reduce the spread.