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A surge of COVID-19 cases among Manitoba's First Nations population has claimed its first life.
During an information session via social media Friday, Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, announced the death and expressed condolences to the family of the person, identified only as an individual in their 70s.
"We've experienced our first loss because of COVID. We knew it was a matter of time. It is among us. It is happening. It is hitting all of our communities," Dumas said.
No other information on the case was announced, citing privacy reasons.
Dumas said, even while mourning, he wanted to remind people to keep up with COVID-19 protocols.
"Remind each other that we must stay vigilant in the fight against COVID-19. Wash your hands regularly, stay home when you are ill, wear a mask, stay socially distanced, and remember and respect the northern travel ban restrictions. We must collectively support each other and bring a united fight against this pandemic."
Noting how an outbreak began at Little Grand Rapids First Nation in recent weeks, Dumas said: "Let's try not to have large gatherings any more. We need to figure out what our new normal is."
As of Friday morning, public health officials said the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Manitoba stood at 38. The last death the province announced was Thursday: a man in his 40s from Southern Health's Winkler district.
Leona Star, director of research at First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, said 105 First Nations people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week, for a total of 284 since the pandemic began.
Star said there have been 115 cases of people living on-reserve and 169 off-reserve, with a test-positivity rate of 5.72 per cent. Manitoba's overall rate on Friday was 5.2 per cent.
Meanwhile, four positive cases were identified at Long Plain First Nation's reserve on the south side of Portage la Prairie.
Chief Dennis Meeches said the cases are all members of one family, and they are currently isolating.
"We heard about it earlier this week," Meeches said. "We believe a child was at (school in Portage) and was exposed there. We knew there was a good chance, with the pandemic, we would have some cases at Long Plain."
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