COVID-19 more severe for First Nations people

COVID-19 is spreading faster among First Nations people in Winnipeg and making them more sick, according to the first release of data on Indigenous people in Manitoba.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$1.50 for 150 days*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/05/2020 (866 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

COVID-19 is spreading faster among First Nations people in Winnipeg and making them more sick, according to the first release of data on Indigenous people in Manitoba.

Province still not providing Métis data

Manitoba has still not reached out to the Métis about whether any COVID-19 carriers have come from that community.

The province signed a data-sharing agreement with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on April 28, giving the AMC a daily report on whether anyone who tested positive identified as Indigenous, the location of diagnosis as well as their age, gender and pre-existing conditions.

Manitoba has still not reached out to the Métis about whether any COVID-19 carriers have come from that community.

The province signed a data-sharing agreement with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on April 28, giving the AMC a daily report on whether anyone who tested positive identified as Indigenous, the location of diagnosis as well as their age, gender and pre-existing conditions.

The province has made it up to the AMC to decide whether to make any of that information public, in order to encourage testing. That’s part of a principle that puts Indigenous people in control over who gets access to data about them.

Courtney Skye, a Mohawk analyst with the Yellowhead Institute, argued it’s problematic to put elected leadership in charge of those decisions, given that not all First Nations have band membership.

“Because there are increased risk factors First Nations people experience, there’s an even greater need for transparency around where the spread is happening,” Skye said Friday.

“We should have the ability to critique and scrutinize (governments and Indigenous leaders) because we are part of the public.”

But Dr. Marcia Anderson, a medical officer of health, said Indigenous medical directors requested the data be made public before the Victoria Day weekend to help encourage people to keep up physical distancing.

She said it took weeks to figure out how the nurses should ask about ancestry, and gather enough data in order to share it in aggregate, without inadvertently identifying a patient.

“It misrepresents it, to say that’s it’s at the whims of the chiefs. It takes a lot of work to put together this kind of analysis,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the data working group is in touch with the Manitoba Inuit Association but not the Manitoba Metis Federation; the province did not explain why by Friday afternoon.

MMF President David Chartrand was furious.

“Why hasn’t one call even happened, or one discussion or one letter or one email?” he said. “This is about people’s lives, not about race. It’s not about politics.”

—Dylan Robertson and Katie May

“It’s in line with previous experiences where there was a higher rate of more severe illness among First Nations individuals, such as during (2009 swine flu) H1N1,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson, a medical officer of health.

As of Friday morning, 16 First Nations people, all living off-reserve, have contracted the coronavirus, of whom two are active cases. There has been one case in both the southern and Interlake-eastern health regions; the other 14 all lived in the Winnipeg area.

The data came after mounting calls to make such figures public; the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has pledged to release updates every Friday.

While 16 people is a small sample size, Anderson noted that four were hospitalized, which she said is more than double the general hospitalization rate, which appears to be less than 10 per cent.

The proportion of infected First Nations people transmitting COVID-19 within their homes or families, known as the “secondary attack rate”, is 30 per cent, compared with 13 per cent of Manitobans overall.

Anderson said crowded urban housing and a lack of access to affordable healthy food helped spread the H1N1 swine flu in 2009, and is likely doing the same with the coronavirus.

She said the factors that make COVID-19 more deadly are also more prevalent among First Nations in the province, including hypertension, lung diseases and diabetes.

The First Nations cases are overwhelmingly female, 13 of 16, which Anderson said could be a result of women doing more caregiving or frontline work than men, or possibly more testing. The ages ranged from one to 69.

“It’s in line with previous experiences where there was a higher rate of more severe illness among First Nations individuals, such as during (2009 swine flu) H1N1.” – Dr. Marcia Anderson

Manitoba nurses have asked anyone testing positive for COVID-19 a series of questions, which since April 2 include whether the person identifies as First Nations, Métis or Inuit.

That’s an optional question; Anderson said many are likely reluctant to identify as Indigenous, fearing discrimination from health-care workers. She said that partially stems from medical experiments on residential-school attendees.

Armed with new data, First Nations brace for COVID-19 first wave

CP This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, gray, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. Experts say researchers racing against time to provide a proven treatment for COVID-19 will have to balance scientific rigor against speed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP

Posted:

Manitoba has learned for the first time how COVID-19 has impacted First Nations citizens in the province.

For the first weeks of the declared pandemic — even though many (including the federal government) knew First Nations would be disproportionately impacted — the province did not collect data on Indigenous cases.

This changed after a late-March agreement with health officials from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, as the province began to ask patients testing positive for the novel coronavirus to voluntarily self-identify as First Nations or not.

Armed with data collected since April 3, Manitoba officials provided the information to AMC on Friday. The report, introduced by Dr. Marcia Anderson (a University of Manitoba professor and Anishinaabe-Cree) in an online presentation, is as good news as any in a pandemic.

Read full story

The province has also compared the identities of COVID-19 carriers against The Indian Register, and identified eight people who have First Nations status from March 13 until nurses started asking about ancestry on April 2.

Anderson said the province will continue to do this, but only to help form the aggregate data. She stressed that having Indian status won’t be then marked into people’s health files.

There have been no cases reported on Indigenous reserves; federally run nursing stations have helped administer 1,488 tests in 27 communities as of Tuesday, and none has come back positive.

The province’s public health chief, Dr. Brent Roussin, called the information-sharing agreement “a great partnership” and praised “terrific leadership” on reserves for keeping out COVID-19.

“It was the goal we were after, and we’re not out of things yet.”

Friday’s data release does not include Inuit or Métis people.

— With files from Larry Kusch

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Friday, May 15, 2020 8:57 PM CDT: Updates chart language

Report Error Submit a Tip