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

Police investigating multiple stabbing at a Newton townhouse on Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Man charged with murder, aggravated assault in Newton townhouse stabbings

Police have not yet released the accused’s name

Do you have someone you would like to thank? Or maybe something to get off your chest? Email your rose or rotten tomato to edit@surreynowleader.com.
Roses and Rotten Tomatoes (Oct. 22, 2020)

Our weekly collection of compliments and complaints sent in by readers

The Surrey Eagles are currently seeking billet families for its players in advance of the 2020-‘21 BC Hockey League season. (Garrett James photo)
Surrey Eagles in ‘desperate’ need of billet families for BCHL season

COVID-19 pandemic has made finding homes for players difficult: billet co-ordinator

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
Bill Fraser Health for excessive mental-health-related police time at White Rock hospital: top cop

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s Senator Reid reporting first COVID-19 exposure

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Swimco announced recently it is shutting all of its stores in Canada, including in Langley. (Swimco website)
Canadian-owned swimsuit chain bankrupt

Swimco had been in creditor protection for several months

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Most Read