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COVID testing for Indigenous families to open

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Indigenous people are mobilizing to contain the spread of COVID-19 among the most vulnerable Manitobans.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/04/2021 (615 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Indigenous people are mobilizing to contain the spread of COVID-19 among the most vulnerable Manitobans.

Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre announced Thursday it will start to offer both rapid screening and conventional COVID-19 tests at its 445 King St. location starting Tuesday.

The staff are all Indigenous people, noted Ma Mawi head Diane Redsky.

Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre will offer both rapid screening and conventional COVID-19 tests at its 445 King St. location starting Tuesday, says executive director Diane Redsky (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“They come from our community and they’re here… to reduce the anxiety, while we are protecting our future.”

Rapid-screening devices are less accurate at detecting COVID-19 than laboratory testing, but they’re good at detecting those who have high viral loads without even knowing they’re infected — and thus the most likely to spread the virus.

Those screening tests could help nip outbreaks in the bud, by informing someone they likely have COVID-19 days ahead of a more thorough test. They’re less likely to infect relatives in Winnipeg or introduce the virus to a First Nation.

Dr. Marcia Anderson, the medical lead for the First Nations Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team, said the new service is in response to how the virus spread throughout the fall and winter.

“If we look at Winnipeg data, we know that the neighbourhoods that have the highest proportions of Indigenous people also had sustained high test-positivity rates, and higher case numbers than would have been expected,” Anderson said.

Data show the proportion of people exposed to COVID-19 who go on to be infected is more than double among First Nations than the general population in Manitoba. That figure, known as the secondary attack rate, is a result of cramped living conditions and poorer overall health, which allow the virus to thrive.

Ma Mawi will also take nose swabs for the general COVID-19 test that will be processed at the Cadham Provincial Laboratory using PCR technology.

Thunderbird House already offers that service half a kilometre down the road from the King Street location, but Redsky said that site targets homeless people. Ma Mawi will welcome anyone, but is primarily meant for families. It will have support services and activities for kids.

“This will be a welcoming and safe place that is accessible for our families,” she said.

“As urban Indigenous people, already not having the best historical relationship with public health (officials) can be really uneasy, and very scary for families.”

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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