After an explosion of COVID-19 cases on reserves in Saskatchewan at the start of 2021, the number tapered off as spring began.
But the latest data from Indigenous Services Canada suggests cases are once again rising in the Land of Living Skies.
Data released Wednesday by Indigenous Services Canada showed there were 689 cases of COVID-19 recorded on reserves in Saskatchewan in mid-January.
By the end of March and into the first week of April, that number had dropped to 61 on-reserve cases.
But that number has since more than doubled, with 135 cases reported in Saskatchewan for the week of May 9 to May 15.
Dr. Ibrahim Khan, the regional medical health officer for Indigenous Services Canada in Saskatchewan, said a few different factors could be contributing to a rise in cases.
"This is a very prolonged pandemic, so certainly there is a lot of fatigue out there with the public restrictions, the public health precautions… but also we've seen that there are a growing number of cases, particularly [variants of concern] coming from other provinces," Khan said.
He said Indigenous Services Canada was sending constant reminders to communities to keep interprovincial trips, particularly between Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, limited to essential travel only — and with the most careful planning possible.
Additional reminders were sent out ahead of the long weekend, he said.
Khan said the more contagious coronavirus variants of concern are a particular challenge, given how quickly they can spread among those living in crowded homes, as is the case on some reserves.
Extra precaution needs to be taken for those participating or attending gatherings indoors and outdoors alike, Khan said, adding all public health orders need to be followed.
85% target for immunity
Khan shared a graphic with CBC News, complied using data from last week, depicting Indigenous Service Canada's progress toward its goal of attaining 85 per cent community immunity through the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Khan said every First Nation community was working hard to reach the 85 per cent uptake level, by hosting vaccination clinics, drive-thru clinics and clinics in urban centres to get Indigenous people vaccinated.
"Once you have achieved that level, then you have less and less chances for the viruses to circulate, less and less chances for the virus to mutate and less and less chances to see more variants of concern," he said.
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccines are equally important, he said, because without those, the "robust" immunity attained through hitting the 85 per cent target for the first round of vaccines would be lost.