The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has locked down its West Coast communities after a member tested positive for the coronavirus.
Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and EOC Chair Elmer Frank told the Westerly News that the Nation was made aware of the positive test on Sunday, Nov. 22, though the patient had been self-isolating for several days prior. He said the patient had traveled to Port Alberni where they are believed to have contracted the virus and then returned to the West Coast where they began developing symptoms.
“Once those symptoms started developing, she confined herself in her house and isolated herself,” he said. “It was a very responsible person that did the right thing.”
He said the patient is recovering well at their home, contact tracing has been done and everyone involved is currently isolating.
The Tla-o-qui-aht communities of Esowista, Ty-Histanis and Opitsaht remain closed to visitors and non-essential travel between communities is prohibited for members.
Frank said households are being asked to send one person for essential trips out of town.
He said the Nation will revisit the lockdown measures on Dec. 7 and that members are being asked to socialize virtually until then.
“How the cases are spreading is that we’re letting our guards down,” he said. “I think that there is definitely a greater understanding of the importance of virtual communications for a two-week period of time. We know that it’s a short-term sacrifice that we all have to take at this point in time for the well-being of our community.”
Frank is urging all British Columbians to follow provincial guidelines, including wearing masks, frequent hand washing and avoiding non-essential travel.
“This virus is real. People need to stay home and people need to be respectful of that. People need to take the advice of the medical health officers and only leave home for essential services and requirements,” he said. “When we let our guards down is how the virus is being spread and I think this short-term sacrifice that we’re all making of living by those rules will flatten the curve.”
He added that he hopes to see stronger measures put in place to protect Vancouver Island, including pushing for a “Vancouver Island bubble” that would require anyone travelling from the mainland to self-isolate for 14 days.
“Not necessarily trying to become our own province or anything like that, but I think that the concept of creating that is there and, with the push and support of others, it can be successful to flatten the curve on Vancouver Island,” he said. “Right now, the cases are increasing quite substantially on the Island and quite significantly and us as First Nations are being affected by the way that we socialize. I think it’s important to put the message out there that we can’t let our guards down. We do see some vaccinations that are being proven to be successful…If we can start being harder on ourselves and self-disciplining, I think that there’s certainly light at the end of the tunnel that we can come out of this pandemic strong.”