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'Wake-up call:' Manitoba chief says increasing COVID-19 cases on reserves concerning – meadowlakeNOW

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There have been 179 COVID-19 cases among First Nations people in Manitoba, with most in the last few weeks, according to the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team.

Leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend, there were 143 active cases among First Nations people in the province. Sixty of those were on reserves, which is more than half of all on-reserve cases in the country. 

Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller warned last week that with a rise in outbreaks across Canada that the second wave of COVID-19 would hit Indigenous communities harder.

Dumas said chiefs in Manitoba are fighting to ensure the pandemic doesn’t gain a stronger foothold in the province. 

Doctors and nurses from the assembly’s pandemic response team, as well as members of the Canadian Red Cross, were dispatched to York Factory First Nation, north of Thompson, at the start of the month after a family of seven was found to have been infected. 

Soon after, teams were also sent to Little Grand Rapids First Nation, where 38 members have so far tested positive.

Dumas said the community of about 1,300, located about 260 km northeast of Winnipeg near the Ontario border, faces a lot of challenges in responding to the outbreak.

Community members need to take a boat to get to the nearest airport. Those who have tested positive and are considered vulnerable are being flown to Winnipeg, because there’s no quick access to care if their health declines further.

Come winter, the airport will only be accessible by ice road.

“It’s the reality of the logistical nightmare,” Dumas said. “The difficulty of service, the level of service that is afforded to our remote and isolated communities, is very minimal.”

Ottawa has provided two Blu-Med negative-pressure isolation tents to Little Grand Rapids to be used for COVID-19 tests and administration. Dumas is also calling for a field hospital to be set up in the north ahead of winter.

He warned that COVID-19 for Indigenous people can be deadly.

Dr. Marcia Anderson, who is Cree-Anishinaabe and works with the First Nations response team, said Indigenous people have higher rates of underlying chronic diseases like diabetes, which are linked to things like housing and food insecurity. It also means they are more susceptible to the severe impacts of COVID-19.

She said that more than 50 per cent of people in hospital with COVID-19 in Manitoba are First Nations. And they make up one-third of those in intensive care. 

It means First Nations people have 10 times the rate of hospitalizations, compared to the rest of Manitoba, she added.

“(It’s) a really concerning trend,” Anderson said during the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs weekly update.

Melanie MacKinnon, head of the First Nations response team, said the Little Grand Rapids outbreak has shown that people need to take precautions and start planning for a challenging time ahead.

“Start thinking about a contingency plan.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2020.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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Calgary COVID outbreak of at least 49 active cases linked to recent wedding: officials – National Post

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CALGARY — Alberta Health says 49 active COVID-19 cases have been linked to a wedding in Calgary earlier this month.

The health agency says the wedding had a large number of Albertans from different households.

Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan says aggressive contact tracing is underway to identify anyone who may have been exposed to make sure they are isolating and getting tested.

He did not say how many people attended the wedding and says specifics about individual cases cannot be disclosed because of patient confidentiality.

COVID-19 restrictions implemented by the province say a maximum of 100 people can attend outdoor and indoor seated events, such as wedding ceremonies, funeral services, movie theatres, indoor arts and culture performances.

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings.

“This is a reminder to all Albertans that this virus is still here and any social gathering carries a risk of exposure,” he said in an email Tuesday.

“It is important that nobody attend if they are feeling ill with even mild symptoms, or if they are awaiting test results.”

He says it is also important that organizers do everything possible to comply with the public health guidance in place, including having enough space for physical distancing between cohorts, following gathering size restrictions and avoiding sharing food and utensils.

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People with dementia among hardest hit by COVID-19 health restrictions – CBC.ca

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Before COVID-19, Lyne Gauthier did her best to keep her husband’s mind from slipping away by organizing activities they had enjoyed together before he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

She would visit the long term facility where Yves Dessureault, 66, has lived for three years and take him on simple outings.

“We’d go grocery shopping, go out for an ice cream cone,” said Gauthier. Sometimes they would just “listen to music and dance.”

But then the coronavirus hit, and there were no more outings.

There were also no more services like pet therapy or music therapy within the facility due to the pandemic. 

Gauthier says she has watched her husband deteriorate dramatically in the past six months. He’s now considered to be in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.

“I think COVID has really fast-tracked the progression of his symptoms,” she said.

Lyne Gauthier has watched her husband slip further and further away amid restrictions limiting family visits, outings, and therapeutic connections with the outside world. 3:26

Gauthier feels the health rules that curtailed their outings and deprived Dessureault of face-to-face contact robbed him of precious time as a husband, father and grandfather.

At his care home, there is little mingling these days and many residents eat their meals in their rooms.

The social isolation has left him more fragile, both physically and emotionally, said Gauthier.

Since the spring, she says, Dessureault appears more upset and anxious. His balance has gotten worse and even the simplest words have lost their meaning.

“If I want to show him where we’d like to sit, I need to tap the seat and do more gestures,” said Gauthier.

“There is a lot he can’t do anymore.”

Worsening symptoms linked to lockdowns

During the pandemic, many residents in long-term care experienced rapid cognitive decline, increased depression and more behavioural symptoms such as wandering and agitation, said Dr. Isabelle Vedel, a public health physician and associate professor in McGill University’s Department of Family Medicine.

McGill University’s Dr. Isabelle Vedel is leading a research project that will examine the impact of the pandemic on people living with dementia. (McGill University)

There is some preliminary research from the United States and the U.K. suggesting people with dementia were hit the hardest by the virus. 

Not only were they at an increased risk of being infected and of dying from COVID-19, but there were thousands of so-called excess deaths — meaning many more people died than the average for the same period in previous years.

Vedel fears the same will be true in Canada.

“People living in long-term care were extremely affected by the pandemic,” said Vedel. “Eighty per cent of the deaths happened in long-term care in Canada, and we know that approximately 80 per cent of people in long-term care have dementia.”

With funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Vedel is leading a research project in collaboration with Alzheimer’s societies across Canada that will measure the deaths of people with dementia during the pandemic.

It will also examine what impact the disruption of services and access to health care may have had on their lives.

For instance, during the first wave of the pandemic, Quebec feared hospitals would be overrun, so long-term care facilities were asked not to send people to the ER, said Vedel.

“It’s very probable that even though they had acute illnesses, they were not sent to the emergency department, so they didn’t receive the appropriate care they needed.”

Lessons for the 2nd wave

Maintaining services as much as possible during subsequent waves of the virus is paramount, Vedel said.

People with dementia rely on home care, community services, family physicians and caregivers. If there are obstacles to getting these services, people with dementia will decline and fall between the cracks, she said.

“We have to make an extra effort for them and make sure that they can be well cared for during the pandemic,” said Vedel.

She expects the research group will have statistics and recommendations in the spring.

Disruptions, reimposed restrictions

With parts of Canada now firmly in a second wave of the pandemic, all the changing health precautions and disruption can be especially distressing for people with dementia.

In Quebec, for instance, more and more regions are in red zones, where visits are once again limited in long-term care homes and private seniors’ residences. The partial lockdown also means many programs are suspended.

The goal is to limit contacts and keep the virus from sweeping through those facilities as it did in the first wave.

The directive to wear masks or face coverings to slow the spread poses a problem for these patients because it’s harder to read facial expressions, which they rely on to communicate and interact.

Many of the outings Gauthier and her husband enjoyed, like going out for an ice cream, were curtailed due to COVID-19 public health restrictions. (Submitted by Lyne Gauthier)

Overmedication is another problem: As patients get more agitated, more medication is being prescribed, including anti-psychotic drugs to calm them down, said Nouha Ben Gaied, the director of research and development for the Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies.

These drugs, “are inappropriate to use for people with dementia and they can cause more harm than benefits” said Ben Gaied.

Ben Gaied hopes Quebec’s health ministry has learned lessons from the first wave.

Nouha Ben Gaied, director of research and development for the Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies, said people with dementia are being prescribed more medication to keep them calm during the pandemic. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

A spokesperson for the ministry said it has introduced measures to better protect this population and reduce the number of excess deaths.

That includes better access to a family doctor and improving the transition between primary care and specialized services, said Marie-Louise Harvey.

The government has also recruited nearly 10,000 new patient attendants, about 7,000 of whom are already working in the system. The rest are still in training.

The province has asked long-term care homes to limit the movement of employees between long-term care homes as much as possible.

Infection control and prevention is also being closely watched. 

Even so, since September, some of the new outbreaks in long-term care homes or private seniors’ residences in Quebec have been in units for people with a cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

‘He deserves better’

Gauthier’s greatest fear is her husband getting COVID.

She’s concerned about the high number of cases in Quebec, and what will happen to her husband if the partial lockdown is extended beyond the end of the month.

She’s doing everything she can to help her husband connect, though now that his care home is in a red zone, all she can offer are video chats with family, walks on the grounds or jaunts in the car to listen to music.

One of the activities that still makes Dessureault light up, she says, is a visit with his grandchildren — even if it is through a window or on FaceTime. Dessureault loves children, she says, and seeing them brings out his goofy, playful side.

“I find my husband for a few more seconds, a minute. It’s as if my husband is back,” said Gauthier, fighting to hold back tears. “The emotions are there. They connect. It’s just simple.”

Dessureault gets a visit from his grandchildren through the window of his care home. (Submitted by Lyne Gauthier)

She says she knows he’s still there, underneath the disease, but his quality of life has spiralled downward during the pandemic.

“He deserves better,” said Gauthier, who sometimes finds it hard to keep her spirits up.

“As a society, we can do better.”

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At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health – CityNews Edmonton

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CALGARY – Alberta Health said 49 active COVID-19 cases have been linked to a wedding in Calgary earlier this month.

The health agency said the wedding had a large number of Albertans from different households.

Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said aggressive contact tracing is underway to identify anyone who may have been exposed to make sure they are isolating and getting tested.

He did not say how many people attended the wedding and said specifics about individual cases cannot be disclosed because of patient confidentiality.

COVID-19 restrictions implemented by the province state a maximum of 100 people can attend outdoor and indoor seated events, such as
wedding ceremonies, funeral services, movie theatres, indoor arts and culture performances.

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings.

WATCH: Recent rise in numbers due to large social events 

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