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

Premier-elect John Horgan, during a visit in Sidney, broadly promised improvements to transit among other issues in the riding of Saanich North and the Islands, even after voters re-elected BC Green Adam Olsen as Member of the Legislative Assembly. (Black Press Media file photo)
Premier-elect John Horgan promises to work with all MLAs

Horgan says his government will pay attention to Saanich North and the Islands

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Bruce McLean, 91, has published his first novel, The Manana Treehouse, which is inspired by his wife’s experience with Alzheimer’s. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
91-year-old Saanich man publishes first novel based on wife’s Alzheimer’s experience

Former journalist Bruce McLean ‘on cloud nine’ after making fiction debut

The British Columbia flag flies at dusk in front of the B.C. legislature on election day 2020. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
NDP claims six out of seven Greater Victoria ridings after preliminary results

Mail-in ballots yet to be counted in provincial election

A new roundabout has been completed at the intersection of Peatt Road, Brock Avenue and Larkhall Road in Langford. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
New roundabout along Peatt Road completed in Langford

Allows for better turning movements for Langford’s fire trucks, improved safety

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Most Read