Cowichan Tribes issued an update on its COVID-19 situation on Monday, acknowledging that there is light at the end of the tunnel after a year of living with pandemic protocols.
The First Nation was hit hard by the virus in early 2021, with more than 270 cases among its roughly 5,000 members since Dec. 31, 2020, including six deaths. Staff at Cowichan Tribes have been working hard to vaccinate their members as well as individuals from the greater community.
“To help limit travel, we have extended our vaccination program to all self-identified Indigenous members living in the Cowichan Valley, and their households,” explained Cowichan Tribes pandemic nurse lead Fairlie Mendoza. “When you choose to vaccinate, you are protecting, not only yourself, but your family, loved ones and community. Getting vaccinated is an act of caring.”
Thus far, more than 2,255 people have been vaccinated at Cowichan Tribes clinics, including members, individuals living in Cowichan Tribes households both on and off reserve, Cowichan Tribes staff and their households, teachers and staff at Cowichan Tribes schools and daycare, and frontline workers who interact directly with the Cowichan Tribes community.
Members of Cowichan Tribes were subjected to racist comments and behaviour shortly after the outbreak in their ranks was made public. That led to a backlash from much of the wider Cowichan Valley community, including condemnation from political leaders locally, provincially and nationally.
“We know the only way to fight the virus, and any stigma, is through working together,” said acting health director Marnie Elliott. “We appreciate the outpouring of community support in response to acts of racism. It is important we continue to spread kindness, not COVID.”
Chief and council issued a stay-at-home order for Cowichan Tribes members on Jan. 6 that was lifted on March 19. Cowichan Tribes was also one of the first First Nations on Vancouver Island to receive vaccine doses, starting their roll-out on Jan. 13.
Vaccination clinics were scheduled for Tuesday, March 30 and Wednesday, March 31 from noon to 7 p.m. for all self-identified First Nations members living in the Cowichan Valley, and their households. For more information about the vaccination clinics visit www.cowichantribes.com