As coronavirus cases continue to climb among children in Manitoba’s Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, some people are begging their community to avoid gathering and get vaccinated.
As of Monday night, the community, which is located about 90 kilometres northwest of Portage la Prairie, along the western shore of Lake Manitoba, is facing 24 active cases on-reserve and at least 12 cases off-reserve, said Virginia Lukianchuk, Sandy Bay’s pandemic response coordinator.
Lukianchuk said at least half of the cases are from school aged children, who got infected from attending schools out of town — as all of the schools in Sandy Bay are in remote learning.
“A couple of [positive cases] through one of the schools then filtered into the community and kids will be kids, [they] go next door to the neighbours, go swimming together,” she said. “That’s why our numbers are getting up there right now, it’s from children.”
Cases in the community started spiking on June 4, she said, with most of the cases being the more contagious B117 variant of concern.
Currently, 36 households are in isolation and four Sandy Bay First Nation members have died from the virus.
Lukianchuk, who is also the assistant director of health, said most of the children who tested positive are not getting sick or showing ill symptoms, which is good. But she’s still pleading with the community to stay home.
“It’s just getting people to stop visiting each other,” she said.”Understanding that if they don’t live in your home, it doesn’t matter if it’s your grandmother, your mother, your brother, your sister.”
Lukianchuk said due to a lack of housing and overcrowding homes, isolating has been difficult for the community.
“Some of the houses are very, very old, but as soon as somebody moves out of the old house into a different house, then somebody takes over that house. That’s why it’s still in use,” she said.
‘Anxiety is quite high’
Debralee Beaulieu, a high school math teacher on reserve, said she’s worried about her teenagers, who are 12, 13 and 15. They attend school in Glenella, which is about 40 kilometres west of Sandy Bay.
“Sending them to school is very, very scary and potentially bringing it home…that’s definitely really scary,” she said.
Beaulieu said she had “pulled her kids from school” at least six times since last fall. If one of their schools had a positive COVID case, she’d ask them to stay home and get their teacher to send them homework.
She said forcing them to stay home all the time has also severely affected their mental health, as well as hers.
“The anxiety is quite high,” said Beaulieu. “You have this feeling in the back of your mind every time you walk out the door. Is this the day I’m going to catch COVID?”
She said she noticed there’s been vaccine hesitancy in the community and hopes that people will soon overcome that so they can curb the spread.
“Just get vaccinated. I mean, I posted that on my Facebook several times. I have both doses. My children are getting the second Pfizer [shot] tomorrow afternoon, so just do it,” said Beaulieu.
Lukianchuk said approximately 60 per cent of the community has been vaccinated for first doses and around 40 per cent for second doses.
“Right now we have a lot of cancellations on the second dose vaccine,” she said. “I’m not really sure. I think people are just sick of COVID and sick of everything.”
There will be a vaccination clinic held at the community complex on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for adults and youth aged 12 to 17.