A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Bailey photo)

A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Nuu-chah-nulth nations on Vancouver Island hit hard by COVID-19

Eight nations dealing with positive tests, hospitalizations and death

Eight Nuu-chah-nulth Nations on Vancouver Island have recorded positive COVID-19 cases recently, including one death.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations have lost a member due to COVID-19, said Hugh Braker, Tseshaht First Nation deputy emergency operations centre coordinator, in a video update last week.

There is a Nuu-chah-nulth child currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, although Braker did not divulge where the child is from.

Huu-ay-aht is one of seven Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, according to Braker. The other nations include Ehattesaht, Nuchatlaht, Hesquiaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht and Tseshaht. Kyuquot is on lockdown but does not have a recorded case of COVID-19, director of community service Steinar Vage said.

“We’re trying to make sure we stay clear.”

Ahousaht First Nation declared a state of emergency on Nov. 26 and told its members the nation was going into full lockdown. Tla-o-qui-aht had already locked down their communities before that.

Braker learned of the outbreaks and statistics after North Island medical health officer Charmaine Enns had a call with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

“On Tuesday (Nov. 24) Charmaine Enns informed the NTC that there were 12 cases in Port Alberni, however, since Tuesday the Tseshaht Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has become aware of at least five more cases. We believe the total number of cases in the Alberni-Clayoquot region is near or slightly over 20, and that Port Alberni has near or over 15,” Braker said.

These numbers are likely to have changed over the weekend.

Braker said one Tseshaht member living outside the community who was previously diagnosed with COVID-19 is now recovering, while another member not living on reserve but in Port Alberni has come back with a positive result. A caregiver who looks after two children that attend Haahuupayak School on Tseshaht land tested positive, so the children are isolating. Even though there has not been a positive case at the school, officials closed both the Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes for a few days as a precaution.

The school typically has 130 students, but on Thursday, Nov. 26 only 16 students were in attendance, Braker said.

Ehattesaht, which is near Zeballos on western Vancouver Island, has 17 cases with eight recovering, North Island medical health officer Charmaine Enns said in an update on Monday, Nov. 30.

READ: Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

READ: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation announces lockdown after member tests positive for COVID-19

READ: Medical team sent to Ehatis reserve to guide community through COVID outbreak

As of a week ago central Vancouver Island had 109 of 173 cases of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island, Braker said. Those numbers have already changed since then. “Island Health is doing 600 contact followups per day due to COVID-19,” he said.

He asked people not to contact Island Health on behalf of friends who they think have been exposed because of social media posts. “If you get a positive test back with COVID-19 or are told to self-isolate because of exposure, Island Health will get a hold of you,” Braker said. “There’s no necessity for you to call them…so be patient. Island Health is getting flooded with calls.”

He reminded people not to allow anyone outside of immediate family in your home, as per recent B.C. provincial COVID-19 protocols. “Sometimes it just takes one person, maybe they don’t know they have COVID-19, but it takes one person to come in with a COVID infection to spread it to many other people.

“This is not just a disease of adults and elders,” Braker added. “Sometimes children get sick and have to be hospitalized, and this serves as a reminder to all of us it’s not just adults at risk, it’s children as well.”

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