STONEY NAKODA – After seeing a rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in Stoney Nakoda First Nation a state of local emergency has been declared.
On Monday (Jan. 11), the Nation saw an increase of 17 active cases bringing its current active cases to 103. There have been four COVID-related deaths in the Nation to date.
An immediate state of local emergency was declared on Monday to help bend the curve of infection in the Nation given the unprecedented increase in COVID-19 positive cases.
Under the state of local emergency, Stoney Nakoda Emergency Management director Mike Crawford has been empowered to act on behalf of Stoney Tribal Council.
“The state of emergency, number one, sends a message that it’s an important heads up to the community and also what it does is it empowers the Nation to enact different measures,” Crawford said.
During the state of local emergency, a focus has been placed on supporting Stoney First Nation members with “care and compassion,” Crawford said, while helping them isolate in their homes to stay safe. This includes ensuring they have access to food and needed medication.
The rapid rise in cases is suspected to be a result of socializing, Crawford said, a trend that has been seen across the province and country.
It will be critical to limit socializing to help prevent the spread of the virus, and the state of local emergency will aid in encouraging Nation members to embrace this practice.
The measures in place follow regulations set forth by Alberta Health Services and the government of Alberta.
The Nation will be also able to enact additional health measures to curb the rate of infection by going above and beyond the current public health regulations.
Crawford praised Stoney Nakoda chiefs and council for being progressive in adapting health measures in the Nation that are helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s a big step enacting these measures – especially banning all cultural gatherings,” Crawford said. “I applaud them in their foresight for doing that.”
Under the state of local emergency, schools remain in learning scenario three until further notice, a curfew between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. will be in place and on-Nation funerals and wakes will no longer be allowed.
Businesses on the Nation remain open with full COVID-19 public health measures in place.
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing is available in the Nation at the Centax Gas Station from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m daily until Friday (Jan. 15). Additional testing days will be added if needed.
To date, 2,355 tests have been completed by Stoney Health Services and 242 cases, 139 of which have recovered, have been confirmed.
Stoney Emergency Management is encouraging anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms, anyone who has attended a funeral, wake or community function and has symptoms, or anyone who has been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, to get tested.
When attending a test, your Alberta Personal Health Number is required.
COVID-19 tests allow both Alberta Health Services and Stoney Health Services to conduct critical contact tracing, Crawford said, making it essential for anyone who suspects they have COVID-19, or have been exposed to the virus, to get tested.
Stoney Health Services has developed a proactive and robust contact tracing system. The hope is that it will help authorities to better understand COVID-19 trends within the Nation.
An isolation centre is available for those in need who have tested positive for the virus. The centre is located in a gymnasium on the Nation. For the most part though, Crawford said everyone is isolating in their homes.
“So far, we’ve done good and I think we’re going to beat this,” Crawford said. “Just stay home and avoid people.”
Stoney Nakoda First Nation is in the queue to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Crawford said it is challenging waiting because while demand is high, there is a limited number of doses available.
Crawford added the recent announcement that the Phase 1 vaccine roll out would include paramedics and first responders was welcomed news in Stoney Nakoda First Nation.
“That’s really good news for us, for our front-line paramedics,” Crawford said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney addressed the outbreak in Stoney Nakoda First Nation at a press briefing on Monday (Jan. 11).
Kenney indicated Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson has been in touch with Stoney Nakoda chiefs and council.
Alberta Health Services and First Nations across the province have taken the pandemic seriously since day one, he said, and embraced a spirit of collaboration.
He noted programs are available in Calgary and Edmonton which pay for isolation rooms in hotels to help address the issue of isolation to help prevent the spread of the virus. Kenney added the program can be expanded to First Nations.
"Unfortunately, in the last month or so, we have seen a worrisome increase in the number of new and active cases on many reserves in all parts of the province and this is a very serious concern," Kenney said.
"We have heard that there are large numbers of people gathering at wakes following funerals, not in compliance of AHS restrictions ... People need to understand that events like that can become super-spreader events."