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

First Nations Health Authority chief medical officer concerned with rising COVID-19 cases

“There’s still so much we don’t know and we’re learning everyday about this particular virus.”

The B.C. First Nations Health Authority acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald said she knows all too well the emotional toll that restrictions designed to keep COVID-19 at bay have had.

It was almost three months until she could see her own grandson when the rapidly-spreading novel coronavirus was first declared a global pandemic.

“The biggest challenge is people are tired of COVID but COVID isn’t tired of us,” McDonald told Black Press Media.

Since March, 495 positive cases of the disease within status First Nations people in B.C. have been confirmed.

As of Sept. 29 there were 178 active cases and eight deaths.

“Any case is concerning but we have seen a significant rise,” McDonald said.

“Any time there’s interaction between human beings right now there’s a risk of COVID, so we’re seeing a couple of circumstances where there have been social events or family gatherings.”

Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller said Indigenous communities have been facing an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases during the last few weeks.

In late June, McDonald praised the efforts of B.C. First Nations to keep COVID-19 rates low and said they were working.

Three months later she said she still stands behind that statement.

“I would say that probably 70 to 80 per cent of our population is doing an amazing job of following public health advice,” McDonald said.

Read More: COVID-19 cases rising in Indigenous communities across Canada

As people continue to struggle with the limitations COVID-19 has placed upon their daily lives, McDonald said there remains understandable fear and anxiety amongst Indigenous people.

“In the context of the communities that we work with there has been some ugly history that’s alive and well in the hearts and minds of First Nations people around smallpox and other diseases that came and wiped out entire communities,” she said.

“But pretty universally the virus [COVID-19] has been brought into the community by community members themselves or their family, and that’s been a hard message to give.”

Numerous events and gatherings have been cancelled, and funerals, which often attract many family members to send the spirit of their loved one onto the next world, are being urged to be kept small.

“Those are things that we could not do in these circumstances, and thank God we didn’t because all of the kids would have had to go home to their communities and potentially put others at risk,” McDonald said of the Junior All Native Basketball Tournament and Gathering Our Voices conference, both of which were quashed earlier this year.

Read More: Experts worry social restrictions might be tough to swallow after months of freedom

With winter now approaching and a new flu season on the way, McDonald said FNHA is working with their provincial and federal partners on ensuring adequate access to flu immunization and continued messaging on how people can keep themselves safe.

As of Sept 17, the FNHA had supplied more than 1.4 million pieces of personal protective equipment to First Nations communities across B.C.

FNHA has also secured three GeneXpert devices. The rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tools will be utilized in the health regions of Vancouver Island, Interior and North.

“The first one is going to be turned on and ready to go hopefully in the next couple of weeks,” McDonald said.

Since Sept. 22 more than 13,600 status First Nations people in B.C. have been tested for COVID.

– With files from Canadian Press


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

File photo
Two arrested near Creston after allegedly fleeing U.S. border agents

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Photo: Rose Karges
Blue about snow?

If you have a recent photo to share email it large or actual-size editor@trailtimes.ca

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

Some amendments have been made to the bylaw since it passed first reading. File photo
Second public hearing set for Rossland chicken bylaw

Amended bylaw would now require electric fencing to be put around yards with chickens

File
Cooperation needed so minority Parliament can function smoothly

“We will continue to work with the other parties to get answers … ”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Most Read