The number of active cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities has doubled in the last week as the fourth wave of the pandemic continues to hit many parts of Canada.
As of Aug. 31, there were 1,319 active cases of the virus in First Nations across the country, according to the latest data from Indigenous Services Canada, up from 609 active cases of the virus as of Aug. 23.
The majority of new infections were reported in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health for Indigenous Services Canada, said the delta variant has been the driving force behind many of the recent outbreaks.
“The delta variant is more contagious than other variants and also it’s associated with a more severe manifestation of infection,” he said.
“What concerns me is that there’s still a number of individuals not yet vaccinated.”
As of Aug. 24, a total of 727,801 vaccine doses have been administered to individuals aged 12 and older in 687 First Nations, Inuit, and territorial communities, as well as 317,602 second doses.
Wong said that accounts for close to 90 per cent of First Nations people aged 12 and older living on-reserve who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Almost 69 per cent are fully immunized with two shots — roughly five percentage points less than the national average.
Since the pandemic began, there have been 35,372 cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities.
The total number of hospitalizations has climbed to 1,668 and 395 First Nations people living on-reserve have died from the virus, with six deaths reported in the last week. Based on the information available to Indigenous Services Canada, Wong said over 95 per cent of the individuals hospitalized and 91 per cent of those who died were unvaccinated.
He emphasized the importance of getting two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as following other public health measures such as masking, distancing, and hand-washing.
“We really want people to try to not put that off and consider getting the vaccine sooner rather than later,” said Wong.
“All the communities can really beat this virus if we can all work together and as a collective know we can get more vaccines into the arms of eligible community members.”
Total cases in First Nations communities per region reported as of Aug. 31:
- British Columbia: 3,539
- Alberta: 9,748
- Saskatchewan: 8,877
- Manitoba: 9,336
- Ontario: 2,996
- Quebec: 849
- Atlantic: 27
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- New or worsening cough.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
- Temperature equal to or over 38 C.
- Feeling feverish.
- Fatigue or weakness.
- Muscle or body aches.
- New loss of smell or taste.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting).
- Feeling very unwell.
If you think you might have COVID-19, please consult your local health department to book an appointment at a screening clinic.