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NAN COVID-19 Bulletin- December 17, 2020

NAN COVID-19 Bulletin- December 17, 2020

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) COVID-19 Update                                                                                                                                           

Thunder Bay District Health UnitTotal Number: 467
Active Cases: 101 (10 new cases reported on December 17)
Recovered: 352
Deceased: 14 (10 more than our last report, all Roseview residents)
Porcupine Health UnitNumber of cases: 118
Active Cases: 2 (last case reported on December 14 in the areas of Cochrane, Matheson, Iroquois Falls and Smooth Rock Falls)
Recovered: 107
Deceased: 9
Northwestern Health UnitTotal Number: 139 ( 137 positive test results, 2 probable cases)
Active: 4 (1 new case reported December 17 in Kenora Region)
Recovered: 135
Deaths: 0
Public Health Sudbury & DistrictsTotal Number: 250
Active: 11 (l3 new cases reported December 16)
Recovered: 237
Deaths: 2
Timiskaming Health UnitTotal Number: 29
Active: 5 (last case reported December 16 in the northern part of the District of Timiskaming)
Recovered: 24
Deaths: 0

NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler – Update                                                             

  • The NAN Executive Council congratulates June Black as the newly elected Chief of Wahgoshig First Nation. We also acknowledge Deputy Chief Dave Morris, who has served as Acting Chief, for all of the work he has done for his community during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • On our final Chiefs Conference call of 2020, we can reflect on what all of us have gone through since the outbreak of the coronavirus. These have been very difficult and uncertain times for ourselves, our families, and communities.
  • We acknowledge and thank Chiefs for their leadership, and the NAN COVID-19 Task Team for their hard work to keep our communities safe. This has made the difference for the low numbers of positive COVID-19 cases we are seeing in our communities.
  • It seems that there is now a light at the end of the tunnel as vaccines are becoming available. We will continue to provide the most current information on the vaccines and the rollout of vaccines across NAN territory.
  • We have invited Ontario Indigenous Affairs Deputy Minister Shawn Batise and Ontario COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force members (Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald and Dr. Homer Tien) to explain how this will happen, and how quickly.
  • There has been a lot of work done behind the scenes to prepare for the rollout of the vaccines, and we thank everyone for their hard work. Chief are encouraged to review existing Band Council Resolutions along with their pandemic teams to allow vaccination teams to enter their communities.
  • Everyone across NAN needs to know what the vaccines mean for them and have the proper information in whatever language they speak. NAN is creating an awareness campaign, including language-speakers, to provide this information. We will share details with leadership as this is developed. We would like to hear from leaders on how they want this information provided (i.e. from the NAN COVID-19 Task Team, from Tribal Councils, or from Health Authorities).
  • The Executive Council and staff will continue to support and work with leadership throughout the Christmas break.
  • The next Chiefs Conference Call is scheduled for January 7, 2021, but we will hold one sooner if required.

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety – Dr. Anna Banerji                                                             

  • Health Canada only approves vaccines that are effective and safe for use in Canada.
  • It is important to know that the first people getting an approved vaccine in Canada are NOT the first people who have ever received that vaccine.
  • All COVID-19 vaccines and candidates were part of rigorous studies where large numbers of people either received the vaccine or were given a substance that has no health effects.
    • Pfizer’s trial had about 44,000 participants.
  • Researchers collected information from both groups of people, so they could see how many people got COVID-19 in each group, and what kinds of side effects or other safety issues people experienced.
  • When studies end, manufacturers provide this information about safety and effectiveness to experts at Health Canada. These experts review the information and determine if it shows that the vaccine is safe and effective enough to be offered to Canadians.
  • This is what Health Canada did with the Pfizer vaccine and what they will do with any COVID-19 vaccine.
  • These COVID-19 vaccines were able to be developed and approved faster than usual for other vaccines for a few reasons, including access to more funding, using newer but not untested vaccine technologies, and a rolling submissions process at Health Canada that was specifically designed not to compromise safety.

·       Severe allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare.

  • Most of the time, the only reactions people experience are mild ones such as itching or redness, nausea, fatigue, and/or sometimes headaches.
  • That does not mean that severe complications or health impacts NEVER happen, just that they are not very common.

·       When the Pfizer vaccine was tested, the majority of side effects were very mild and stopped within 1-2 days.

  • So far, three people who received the Pfizer vaccine in the United States and the United Kingdom experienced severe allergic reactions.
    • This was a rare event; approximately 130,000 people were vaccinated in the United Kingdom during the first week that the vaccine was available, but only two people experienced severe allergic reactions.
  • This is why Health Canada is warning that people with allergies to any of the ingredients in the Pfizer vaccine not to get it.
  • Vaccines are continually monitored for safety and effectiveness.
  • There is a national tracking system in place so that health authorities can identify and investigate serious side-effects from any vaccine.

Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs – Deputy Minister Shawn Batise                                                             

  • The Ministry is working closely with Grand Chief Fiddler and his staff. A lot of people are involved with the vaccine rollout process. Also holding daily calls with General Rick Hillier, head of the Ontario COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, which is overseeing the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
  • Remote First Nations have been prioritized. An Indigenous sub-task table is being developed that will include NAN.
  • Hoping to have a concept of operations by next week on how the vaccine will rollout across NAN. The intent is to have an entire community prepared when vaccination teams arrive. This includes non-Indigenous Peoples living in communities (i.e. teachers, spouses, etc.).
  • The Moderna vaccine will be coming to remote NAN First Nations. Ontario is fully aware that it is only for people aged 18 and older.
  • There are a lot of moving parts to this, and Chiefs are asked to be patient. Deputy Minister is pleased to take questions from Chiefs if they contact him.

Ontario COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force                                                       

  Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald

  • The purpose of this Distribution Task Force is to ensure that communities are prepared for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Task Force is using the H1N1 rollout as the model for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
  • Acknowledged the tremendous work that NAN communities have done. First Nations leadership in Ontario, and the NAN COVID-19 Task Team, have been very strong preventing outbreaks in communities. This week we bent the curve in Ontario; hopeful that we flatten the curve over the holidays.
  • Have met with health ministers to discuss the unique needs of NAN communities. All levels of government, including Indigenous Services Canada, are working together on plans to get the vaccine to communities. Remote and isolated areas will be a priority. The federal government is responsible for vaccine procurement.
  • Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford has established a sub-table and is providing information to the Distribution Task Force.
  • The Pfizer vaccine was approved and administered to health care workers. It is likely that NAN First Nations will receive the Moderna vaccine as it can be more easily transported.
  • Community-driven and community-based processes are the best path forward for the administration of vaccines. There has been a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, particularly on social media. It is important for leaders to issue scientific facts and advice from health experts.
  • Chiefs of Ontario’s COVID-19 Initiatives Team and health sectors have developed a vaccine newsletter which contains up-to-date information on the vaccine rollout.
  • Will continue to work with NAN leadership to ensure that NAN First Nations are prepared.

Dr. Homer Tien, Trauma Surgeon, Ornge President & CEO

  • Role on the Distribution Task Force is to provide advice on technical aspects of vaccine delivery. This process must be done in partnership with, and by listening to, the communities.
  • Eager to hear thoughts and questions from leadership regarding vaccine distribution and access to care. Can be contacted at

COVID Vaccine Questions & Answers – Chiefs & Health Experts                                                        


Does the Moderna Vaccine require two shots? Once you take a shot, are you no longer susceptible to COVID-19?


It is two shots for almost all COVID-19 vaccines. The first shot gives some immunity, the second shot boosts that immunity and gives longer-term immunity. The vaccine is 95% effective. If you were to give the vaccine to the whole community, maybe one out of 20 people might still get COVID-19, but probably much milder. Generally, that would stop the spread of COVID-19.


When can we anticipate the vaccines to be rolled out to First Nation communities?


Under the framework, remote communities are a priority, beyond the initial first priority of health care workers and long-term care and senior homes. Supply and demand are issues, as there are only 168,000 Moderna vaccines coming by the end of December. Then divide that number by two, as each person needs two vaccines (the second one 28 days after the first).

Phase 1 is structured to get remote First Nations vaccinated from now until the end of March. Teams will be going to the communities to administer these vaccines, and must be vaccinated themselves before arriving in communities.

There is still a lot of work to be done around logistics and coordination. Ontario Regional Chief has asked for a schedule of when vaccines will arrive and how many. This will help clarify rollouts in First Nations. This information will be provided during the holidays to keep leadership informed.


A lot of Elders do not have access to Facebook or TV. What awareness is there for Elders who do not understand the vaccine, keeping in mind language dialects? For those who are hesitant, what will be done? What is being done for those with personal experience from allergic reactions? What explanations are available to provide comfort?


A NAN vaccine awareness campaign is being developed to ensure everyone has access to information in their language. NAN will ensure it goes on social media, websites, Wawatay, and will be translated into different dialects. This work is being created now.

For those who have doubts about the vaccine, campaigns will include the medical knowledge and scientific research used in the creation of these vaccines. It is important that people and communities with past trauma from Indian Residential Schools, Indian Hospitals, and other horrific experiences with health care get this important information. Hopefully, this will help erase those doubts.

In order for the vaccine to be effective, 70% of community members must be vaccinated to reach effectiveness. We are hoping to reach this target with our awareness campaign. For those worried about a reaction to the vaccine, an airplane could be left in the community while teams do vaccinations to shorten response times for anyone who may experience a reaction. As plans take shape, this is the type of information leadership will need to share with their communities.


Will Ornge be administering the vaccine when it rolls out to First Nations? Are there studies associated with how the vaccines were developed and rolled out in nine months? What is happening at ground zero?


It is important to know there are a lot of capabilities in the First Nations that will be relied on. This work will be done in consultation with leadership. Ornge would like to be part of it, and has some capabilities to do so. Indigenous Services Canada has groups of paramedics on contract that are ready to go, and there are other resources to make this a bigger effort than just Ornge.

More information on the vaccine can be found here.


The rollout of the Moderna vaccine is expected at the end of December. The logistics in First Nations should have involvement from leadership. It will be key to have contact with First Nations when planning, from the beginning of discussions. What is the future plan for people under 16 who cannot get the vaccine? Will they continue to be vulnerable?


For this to be effective, we need community buy-in and support. This is what we are doing and will need to continue to do. It is important that the necessary groundwork is done to prepare communities for the vaccine, including communication, so everyone can understand. The next Chiefs call is January 7, but we may call on leadership to participate over the holidays but if there are significant developments.

The ages for vaccines is the population that the study was based on, because that was who was getting the sickest. There will likely be studies done for younger age groups. The most vulnerable people are Elders, and they have the highest risk of dying. If everyone in the community gets the vaccine, and if children get sick, the most vulnerable members are still protected.


Which communities will get the vaccine first?


These are the discussions happening right now, not only at Ontario’s main table, but also at the sub-table. When the Moderna vaccine is approved it will become clearer as to how it will roll out. As more information and plans take shape, we will share with leadership.


Will the vaccine be mandatory?


The vaccine will be encouraged, but it will not be mandatory. However, there may be restrictions (including travel) in the future for those who do not get the vaccine.


When do you anticipate approval of the Moderna vaccine, and what is a realistic timeframe for the rollout?


We are currently waiting for Health Canada approval. We are optimistic that this will happen at the end of December. It could take a minimum of 30 days after the arrival of the vaccine to ensure that those who will administer it (the vaccination teams) can be protected before going into the communities.

NAN COVID-19 Task Team – Mae Katt                                                             

  • The Task Team meets weekly and monitors COVID-19 cases across NAN territory.

Cases in NAN Territory SLFNHA:

  • 1 active case in Lac Seul First Nation (announced by SLFNHA on December 6)


  • Five cases recently announced in Attawapiskat are now considered to be resolved.
  • There are three active cases of COVID-19 that are currently self-isolating in Moose Factory.
    • As these cases have primary residences outside of Moose Factory, they are not included in the region’s case count by the Public Health Unit.
    • So far, all high-risk exposures have been notified and isolated by Public Health Units.

Winter Roads

  • COVID-19 continues to have a deep and tragic impact among First Nations in Manitoba, where many of us have roots or relations.
  • As of December 16, there were 2,685 active cases among First Nations people in Manitoba, with 1,074 cases on-reserve.
    • 70 First Nations people have also passed away from COVID-19 in that province; our hearts and thoughts are with their loved ones and the many First Nations who are fighting this virus.
  • With the COVID-19 situation in Manitoba and the winter road season about to start, we understand that communities that connect to Shamattawa First Nation (Peawanuck, Fort Severn) may be anxious about opening winter roads or choose not to have them entirely.
  • The NAN COVID-19 Task Team supports whatever decisions community leadership makes to keep their people safe.
  • The NAN Housing and Infrastructure Department and the Task Team are collaborating on a guidance document to assist communities with planning for a winter road season during COVID-19.
  • This guidance will include screening and other public health considerations for communities who choose to have checkpoints along winter roads.

Christmas Guidance

  • Because of COVID-19, we will have to have a different kind of Christmas this year to keep ourselves and our people safe.
  • Please follow your community’s pandemic guidelines for Christmas, especially those travelling or having guests.
  • This could mean that you cannot gather with your loved ones in person, but maybe you can meet virtually or have a long phone call with them on Christmas Day.
  • Your community may also have public health guidelines and gathering limits in place for the holidays; check these guidelines before you gather with anyone outside of your household.
  • Whether you are shopping for gifts or dropping off a Christmas dinner, follow the same public health measures to protect yourself and others:
    • Stay home if you feel sick.
    • Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
    • Wear a mask indoors and whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained outdoors.
    • Avoid crowded spaces and close contact with anyone outside of your household.
  • Please think about your Elders during this time, as they may feel lonely without their family gathered around them.
    • Try to safely contact them, bring them special foods and other treats they like, and let them know that everyone is staying safe and thinking about them.
  • Stay safe, take care, and have a Merry Christmas!

General Task Team Updates

  • The NAN COVID-19 Task Team continues to meet on a weekly basis to discuss issues affecting the COVID-19 response within NAN territory.
  • We will be taking a break from meeting while the NAN office is closed for the holidays; however, many Task Team members have agreed to be available during this time if the need arises.
  • Rapid testing:
    • We understand that many of the communities who received a GeneXpert rapid testing instrument through the National Microbiology Laboratory have been trained or scheduled their training on this instrument.
      • NML confirmed that their contract to purchase additional GeneXperts had been approved, so more GeneXperts should be available to send into NAN communities over the next few weeks.
    • Ontario Health has also started to send ID NOW instruments into Mushkegowuk communities and some communities in SLFNHA, with plans to send out more of these instruments in January.
    • The Task Team strongly believes that all NAN communities should have access to rapid testing technology for COVID-19.

Mental Health & Substance Abuse

  • Another drug alert was issued in Thunder Bay: “Yellow Down” and “Kool-Aid Blue Down” may be contaminated with benzos and appear to be very toxic right now.
  • It is important that people living in Thunder Bay who use drugs do not use alone, access supervised consumption if possible, and carry naloxone.
  • Mental Health and Substance Use Working Group co-chairs Mae Katt and Dr. Claudette Chase joined Grand Chief Fiddler and Thunder Bay emergency service providers to discuss the recent increase in overdoses among NAN community members living in Thunder Bay.

NAN Hope

  • NAN Hope has connected more than 192 clients to care as of last week.
  • You can access NAN Hope at any time through the website and get help right away.
  • NAN Hope offers:
    • 24/7 toll-free rapid access to confidential crisis services.
    • Rapid access to clinical and mental health counselling.
    • Navigators who provide connection to existing mental health and addictions support services in home communities and the region.
  • This service is for all NAN members from youth to Elders, living on or off-reserve.
  • Please continue to share NAN Hope with anyone who might need help.
  • There are language-speakers available through this program.
  • NAN Hope can be accessed through 1-844-NAN-HOPE (1-844-626-4673) and
  • Call 911 or seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you know, is showing symptoms of methanol poisoning.

Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS) – Chief Roland Morrison                                                             

  • For the week of December 7-14, 2020 there were 22 major occurrences across the three regions of NAPS, including:
    • 11 Domestic Violence Incidents
    • 1 Sexual Assault
    • 1 Sudden Death
    • 2 Drug Arrests
  • On December 14-15 NAPS management held calls with Sergeants and frontline officers. Management was informed by one of the Sergeants that the community the Sergeant is working in is approaching 1,000 lockups for the year.
  • Three NAPS Survivor Assistance Support Program (SASP) workers are now in their respective regions:
  • Northwest Region – Marie Roundhead, (807) 738-6063,
  • Central Region – Brittany Eisenbach, (807) 620-1491,
  • East Region – Marilyn Sutherland, (705) 852-0070,
  • NAPS filled the internal position of a Wellness Officer; this officer will be tasked with developing various wellness programming for our officers.
  • NAPS management continues to meet with the NAN Executive Council and NAN Legal on the Justice file.
  • NAPS management participated in Meeting No. 4 with the Solicitor General’s Ministry on the development of the new Comprehensive Police Services Act with the other eight self- administered Indigenous Police Services in Ontario.


  • Members of the NAN Executive Council will continue to provide updates on Wawatay Radio on Tuesday at 12 pm EST and on Friday at 1:05 pm EST.
  • COVID-19 Tools and Resources are being translated into Oji-Cree, Ojibway, and Cree to assist communities spread awareness and public health messaging. They are posted on the NAN website ( under ‘COVID-19 Tools and Resources’.
  • Please send all new and updated community memos, statements, By-Laws, BCRs and relevant community travel restriction information to so NAN and others can remain aware and respectful of your community’s wishes.

Urban Communities                                                             

  • NAN has posted specific information on the NAN COVID-19 website for members living off-reserve in urban centres across northwestern and northeastern Ontario.
    • This includes how to find shelters, food banks, social and mental health services, as well as Indigenous organizations that can provide assistance.
  • Please visit It is updated with the most current information.

NEXT CALL: Thursday January 7, 2021 | 1 p.m. EST | 12 p.m. CST

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