Efforts by B.C. First Nations to keep COVID-19 rates low are working, says health officials

Concerns of a surge in cases still remain

Dr. Shannon McDonald, First Nations Health Authority (FNHA photo)

Difficult and painful sacrifices have paid off by B.C. First Nations communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released Friday (June 26).

Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer for the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), revealed there are just three active cases of the disease within status First Nations people.

She said of the more than 5,500 tests completed from January 1 to June 14, 87 were positive and 42 of those were people living on or near reserve. Four of those who contracted the respiratory virus have died.

READ MORE: School teacher tests positive for COVID-19 as B.C. sees two new deaths, 20 cases

“Thanks to an extraordinary response from our First Nations communities, the people FNHA serves have fared even better than the rest of the population in the face of this unprecedented challenge.”

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the data from FNHA tells her the work by FNHA health directors, First Nations leaders and communities themselves to prepare for and manage the pandemic is working.

Success can be attributed to the choices of First Nations leaders who implemented strong public health measures including limiting or restricting unnecessary travel and cancelling or postponing large gatherings which are central to their culture and way of life, McDonald said.

Band offices were shuttered at many First Nations communities in some of which that also activated their Emergency Operations Centre and went into lockdown.

“The worst which many anticipated and feared did not happen,” McDonald said. “Transmission of the virus within and between our communities was kept to a very small number.”

READ MORE: B.C. reopening travel not sitting well with several First Nations

Despite the success, she acknowledged it is no time to lower our guard even as B.C. transitions and begins to reopen schools, business and travel.

Some First Nations leaders continue to express concern of having non-residents within their territories who could potentially expose their communities to the disease as travel restrictions begin to ease.

McDonald said each First Nation community is completing their own risk assessment and making choices about travellers and visitors entering their territory.

“My role is not to politically control communities but to respect their self determination,” she said.

“We continue to have conversations about how to best support the decisions that communities are making.”

The FNHA will be expanding COVID-19 testing to the most remote communities in the weeks ahead.

British ColumbiaCoronavirusFirst Nations

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Port Alberni firefighters raise $500 for Burn Camp

To date, Port Alberni has raised $13,000 for the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund

Port Alberni residents fighting with BC Ferries

Medically assured loading aboard ferries welcomed by Islanders

Canal Beach in Port Alberni open for swimming

Beach had been closed in July after high bacteria readings were detected in the water

North Island College offers resources for students learning online

College will hold a ‘virtual orientation’ this week

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

Don’t leave your hand sanitizer in the sun and other tips to stay COVID safe this summer

Being mindful of staying outside and keeping hand sanitizer, sunscreen out of the sun recommended

What exactly is ‘old growth’ B.C. forest, and how much is protected?

Forests minister Doug Donaldson doesn’t support ‘moratorium’

Canadians can travel to Hawaii in September; no quarantine with negative COVID test

Travellers will be required to pay for their own tests prior to arriving

Pay cuts, seating charts, COVID screening: How one B.C. venue is bringing back concerts

A growing number of bars and restaurants are welcoming back musicians under COVID-19 precautions

Cooler days help crews fighting fire on mountainside southwest of Nanaimo

Firefighters making progress, but it’s ‘slow-going,’ says B.C. Wildfire Service

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Most Read