Pimicikamak to get military aid to battle COVID-19 outbreak, chief says

A First Nation in northern Manitoba will be receiving military aid to battle its COVID-19 outbreak, the community’s chief told CBC News.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces visited Pimicikamak, also known as Cross Lake First Nation, last weekend to assess how best to help the COVID-19 outbreak there.

On Monday, Chief David Monias told CBC News via text message that 25 armed forces personnel will be dispatched to the First Nation, located about 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and they will stay at the Cadet Building.

Depending on the weather and finalization of transport arrangements, members of the armed forces could be in Pimicikamak by Tuesday. They are currently slated to be in the community for two weeks, said Monias, but assessments will be done on days seven and 12 of their stay.

The military’s main tasks will be to coordinate with the First Nation’s leadership and partners, conduct wellness checks, establish and run alternative isolation arrangements — spaces that allow people to safely self-isolate — and support public awareness about public health rules, Monias said.

CBC News contacted the department of national defence for more information. A spokesperson said the department has nothing to share at this time, “but we’ll keep you posted as things progress in the next day or so.”

Meanwhile, James Favel, an ambassador for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, has confirmed that there will be a team of 30 AMC ambassadors going to Cross Lake First Nation.

“We’re there to shoulder some of the burden that the community’s rapid response team has been shouldering for a while now,” said Favel. “Basically, we’re trying to trying to help them be able to take a bit of a break and heal.”

Monias says  the team will be staying at D.R. Hamilton School, and will provide support in “other roles” that civilians can do.

Those include manning checkpoints, making tuberculosis kits and food hampers, performing wellness checks and delivering mail, said Favel.

Pimicikamak is waiting to hear back from Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. about deploying their mental health and crisis team to help people in isolation who may be suffering from anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts, he said.

Pimicikamak has 178 known active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, according to a bulletin issued by the band office.

Eighty-seven of those cases are children, the bulletin says.

The community has had 260 total COVID-19 cases since Feb. 8, it says, adding that about 6.4 per cent of community members have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We want to flatten that curve and get those numbers down,” said Favel. “The people are afraid to come to work because the threat is real.

“It’s a death sentence for many people, and we want to make sure that we quiet it down and we don’t see that outcome.” 

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