OTTAWA — Canadian military support began Tuesday for a northern Manitoba reserve struggling with a staggering rise in COVID-19 cases.
"Some of them arrived by ground at 8 o’clock this morning," Pimicikamak Chief David Monias told the Free Press, sounding relieved as he drove the local airport to welcome a large Canadian Armed Forces plane.
The military confirmed sending eight medical staff from Ontario, and 17 general duty personnel from CFB Shilo, most of whom arrived around 3 p.m. on a C-130 Hercules airplane.
Pimicikamak is the sixth Manitoba reserve to welcome military help for COVID-19 outbreaks.
The Cree community, also known as Cross Lake, had counted 258 infections, as of Monday.
The local public-health unit reported an infection rate that has risen by 87 per cent in just 10 days.
The band says it has 8,000 residents, but officially reported 6,200 last month. Its reserve sits some 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
The Forces said its staff will integrate with the local command post, do wellness checks on locals, and set up an isolation site. The soldiers will do "limited civilian patient care" before handing it over to local nurses.
"CAF support has been requested for a period of two weeks but will continue until the situation has stabilized and is manageable through local and provincial resources," wrote spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande.
Help will also come soon from First Nations leaders.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak said it has accepted the band’s request for a deployment of its mental health teams, with logistics being sorted out Tuesday.
Monias had sought help for "issues such as anxiety, depression and suicide ideation," in his written Monday update to the band.
He also requested help from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, asking for 30 people to help with roles civilians can undertake but didn’t specify what type. The AMC confirmed it will send support, but did not immediately have details.
In an online update Monday evening, Monias wrote most of the positive cases would be flown out of the community, which is a common practice meant to keep patients close to hospitals in case they need acute care. He wrote 14 charter flights had been schedule for the day.
As of Monday, 205 locals had gotten the required two doses of the Moderna vaccine, while 80 had their first shot, all within the community.