At least 54 COVID-19 cases in Pimicikamak linked to 3 major events in early February

At least 54 COVID-19 cases in a northern Manitoba First Nation grappling with its worst outbreak yet have been traced back to three superspreader events in the first week of February.

A wake, a funeral and a birthday party in Pimicikamak, along with a few other large gatherings of families and friends, were listed in a presentation posted online that illustrates how the illness has spread so quickly in the community, which is also known as Cross Lake First Nation.

Every two cases from those events led to five more cases in the community, according to the presentation, which was posted on the Cross Lake Band website.

The spread happened quickly. On Feb. 7, there were no new cases in Pimicikamak. Five days later, 25 were reported in one day.

On Feb. 17, the last date included in the data released, there were 35 new cases of COVID-19.

The cases diagnosed in the community since the start of this month make up 65 per cent of all Pimicikamak’s infections, the presentation says.

At least 37 households in the community have had more than one case of the illness this month alone.

As of Thursday, the community — with a population of around 8,100, according to Chief David Monias — had reported 294 COVID-19 cases on-reserve since the beginning of 2021, Pimicikamak’s leadership said in a news release.

More than 200 active cases

There were 204 active cases, including 87 children, and 146 households in the community were affected as of Thursday, the release said.

Of the community’s active cases, 161 people were in alternate isolation accommodations on Thursday, the news release said.

Sixty-four more people, including some close contacts, were waiting to get into that type of accommodation, with charters set to arrive to take more people to Winnipeg, the news release said. 

Four people were in hospital with COVID-19 and three were in intensive care.

Meanwhile, elders in the community started getting their second doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week, the release said.

Pimicikamak Chief David Monias is pictured in this file photo with some of the first COVID-19 vaccines that arrived in the community. (Submitted by David Monias)

Chief Monias said on Thursday the federal government has agreed to send military personnel into the community to assess how it may be able to provide support.

The community is running out of room for people to self-isolate, with classrooms, gyms and a local hotel converted into temporary isolation spaces that are now full, and front-line workers are stretched thin, Monias said.

He said an epidemiologist has been sent into the community to investigate further as Pimicikamak deals with its third COVID-19 outbreak in recent months, despite strict public health measures.

One case in the community was earlier suspected to be the more contagious B117 variant first detected in the U.K. On Wednesday, it was confirmed the case was not that variant, or any other variant of concern.

Pimicikamak is located about 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

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