COVID-19 claims life of First Nations elder in Nanaimo hospital

COVID-19 claims life of First Nations elder in Nanaimo hospital
WatchCOVID-19 claims life of First Nations elder in Nanaimo hospital Friday

The people of Alert Bay are in mourning tonight after their community deals with its first COVID-19 death.

It was also the first B.C. death of a First Nations member.

The chief of the Namgis First Nation says a woman who was from Alert Bay and one of their members died in Nanaimo’s hospital yesterday after being treated for about a week.

Alert Bay’s mayor was among those who have tested positive, and last week it was revealed at least six new people had contracted COVID-19 on Cormorant Island, where only 1,500 people live.

Today during her briefing B.C.’s top doctor confirmed the province’s first death in a first nations community.

“Our elders in particular in our first nations communities are culture and history keepers,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry. “When they become ill and when they die we all lose and I want you to know we feel that collective loss today.”

Chief Don Svanvick says the COVID-19 death has hit the small community hard and heightened people’s resolve to try and stop the virus’s spread.

“The vast majority of our communities are taking it really quite seriously. This adds a really sad note to it, and certainly, I’m sure because of that there are people that are more serious about it,” said Svanvick.

“The level’s gone up no matter where you are on that scale of seriousness.”

Svanvick says he married into the woman’s family so it impacts him personally, as it does many who knew her in the small tight-knit community.

Each night on Cormorant Island, since a state of emergency was declared, there’s an audible alert reminding people 30 minutes prior to an overnight curfew starting.

It’s one of the extra measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the island near Port McNeil.

“We’ve also instituted travel restrictions where it’s limited to essential travel and obviously people who are still working. There are people that work off the island and there are other people that come onto the island to work,” said Svanvick.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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