The FNHA is encouraging First Nations individuals and communities to continue observing physical distancing, maintain small social bubbles, and avoid gatherings as the daily count of new COVID-19 cases remains high.
A recent spike in COVID-19 positive tests in BC First Nations communities shows that the threat remains real. The virus does not respect closed roads and checkpoints, and it spreads during ceremonies and large gatherings that then become known as “super spreader" events.
“While the FNHA recognizes and honours the significance of these ceremonies to our health and wellness—and particularly the trauma caused by past banning of these activities—now is not the time to hold group activities," said the FNHA's Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shannon McDonald.
Recent data shows that almost 74 per cent of COVID-19 cases are occurring in community clusters or other known COVID-19 exposures, and many have been associated with family and community gatherings. Of First Nations individuals getting tested in the week ending Oct. 3, 4.5 per cent are showing a positive result, compared with fewer than two per cent for British Columbia as a whole.
As of Oct. 6, the ratio of positive cases among First Nations members is 325 per 100,000 people, compared with 175 per 100,000 people among other British Columbians. Until recently, First Nations experienced a lower rate than the rest of the population.
Since the pandemic began, there have been 451 cases of COVID-19 among First Nations people in BC and 185 of those are still active.
As COVID-19 cases rise in First Nations communities, Dr. McDonald is recommending that people limit their bubbles to their immediate families and work colleagues in order to keep their families, communities, and Nations safe—especially on occasions such as Thanksgiving.
“Large gatherings and funerals have led to several COVID-19 clusters in those communities," said Dr. McDonald. “We know it's difficult, but staying in your bubble is the healthiest choice. It only takes one person, who may not be showing symptoms, to pass on COVID-19."
This is particularly important given the need to protect the most vulnerable to the virus: the elderly.
“COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for Elders, those with compromised immune systems, or people with pre-existing health conditions. Losing one of those people can be devastating for a community," she added. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the nine First Nations people in BC who have already passed away because of COVID-19."
And finally, the FNHA is urging people to treat each other with kindness, love and respect as the best way to come through this crisis. Stigma creates fear, and fear stops people getting tested and this makes it harder to prevent the spread in community.
So to keep yourself, your family and your community safe, please follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Read a message from Dr. Shannon McDonald on sweat lodges ceremonies and potlaches.