Horse Lake sees large COVID case increase this week

·3 min read

A recent spike in COVID cases at Horse Lake First Nations is cause for concern, says its chief executive officer Azar Kamran.

The Horse Lake Wellness Centre reported 21 active COVID-19 cases there Monday; 13 homes have been placed under isolation.

That represents an increase of nine cases in just a week. On Wednesday Horse Lake reported five recoveries and 16 active cases, accounting for 59 per cent of the total number of cases in west county as of Wednesday. West county active cases are currently sitting at 27; the west county local geographic area (LGA) includes First Nations communities, said Tom McMillan, Alberta Health communications assistant director.

“We find this concerning, as does the whole province,” Kamran told the News.

Still, he said the Horse Lake numbers are “stable” and attributed the rising numbers to increased testing.

As of Monday nurses had completed 304 tests in Horse Lake, compared to 243 last Monday.

The reserve has a population of 437, according to Indigenous Affairs Canada.

Kamran said he believes COVID made its first appearance in the community approximately two months ago.

By early January there had been seven recovered cases, according to the wellness centre.

On Jan. 4, there was only one active case.

“Our advice would be to maintain hygiene and all safety precautions, including maintaining (two-metre) distance,” Kamran said.

He said band administration is promoting the precautions through the community newsletter and social media.

Travel is also being discouraged though administration recognizes residents can leave and enter the community, Kamran said.

Horse Lake has a small school for Grade 1 to 3 students, with approximately 24 students.

Kamran said it’s been closed since November at band council’s direction; buses to schools outside the community haven’t been operational since November.

The 13 homes were placed under isolation in accordance with Alberta Health guidelines, Kamran said.

The Horse Lake Wellness Centre is also discouraging visits between members of different households.

Some residents are observing this directive and others aren’t, Kamran said.

Outdoor and indoor gatherings were banned across the province in December, with the province lifting the ban on outdoor gatherings Monday, with a limit of 10.

The Horse Lake Wellness Centre has discouraged indoor gatherings and advised residents who witness them to call 1-833-415-9179, the number to report health violations, or the RCMP.

Rick Wilson, Alberta’s indigenous relations minister, acknowledged Monday in a statement a delay in getting vaccines to indigenous seniors 65 and up due to a shortage in doses.

Kamran said Horse Lake is hoping to receive vaccines as soon as possible and has remained in contact with AHS about the matter.

No vaccinations have been made yet, he said.

At press time there are 46 active cases across the County of Grande Prairie, including 19 in the east and central portions, and there have been four fatalities in the east and central county.

The City of Grande Prairie has 180 active cases and has had 14 fatalities.

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News