The First Nations community of Ahousaht is in lockdown and its two schools are shut down after a community member tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, Nov. 26.
Ahousaht Emergency Operation Centre director Curtis Dick said the community member, a female in her 30s, is in isolation with her family.
“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through,” said Dick, adding that his team of six is fully committed to doing their best to be transparent and help in any way they can.
“The more information they have, the better off they are and the less anxiety they have. That’s the approach we are taking. We are doing our best to answer everybody within 10 to 15 minutes of an email, but sometimes that takes longer,” he went on to say.
The village of Ahousaht is located about a 30-minute boat ride from the municipality of Tofino. Dick said community members have access to a local food distribution and regular truck deliveries for special orders.
“We are only allowing people to leave that have a medical emergency or [medical] appointments. Members can’t just leave if they want to go to Tofino. There is no shopping at this time,” he said.
“We are doing our best to really clamp down. People have to get a written pass to leave the community and if you don’t have one, you don’t go.”
Ahousaht is one of eight Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations that have recorded positive COVID-19 cases recently, according to Tseshaht First Nation deputy emergency operations centre coordinator Hugh Braker. The other nations include Kyuquot, Ehattesaht, Nuchatlaht, Hesquiaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Huu-ay-aht and Tseshaht. Ehattesaht, which is near Zeballos on western Vancouver Island, has eight cases (two recovering), according to Braker.
Huu-ay-aht First Nation recently had a member who died from COVID-19, Braker said, and there is a Nuu-chah-nulth child currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, although Braker did not divulge where the child is from.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation announced a lockdown of its community on Nov. 22.
Dick said he is not surprised the novel coronavirus has reached the remote community of Ahousaht.
“We have a lot people travelling in and out of our community like anywhere else. We really hope this [positive case] has really woken people up to take this seriously and that we do our part,” said Dick.
He went on to emphasize the importance of educating and communicating.
“One of the biggest challenges that we have is what are going to do with the kids? Now with Christmas coming up, it won’t look the same. Start talking about it. There is no mall visits or Santa sitting for my kids. It’s going to be tough, but remember it’s not going to be forever,” he said.
Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is urged to self-isolate and contact 811 or the Island Health COVID-19 Testing Call Centre at 1-844-901-8442. More information can be found at HealthLinkBC’s website, www.healthlinkbc.ca.
– With files from Susie Quinn