An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Cowichan Tribes has turned fatal.
Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour confirmed with CHEK News that the first member of their community has died due to COVID-19 since an outbreak was declared earlier this month.
The patient, who had been in hospital battling COVID-19 for the past 10 days, died on Monday. Collectively, the community is in mourning following the loss of one of its members.
Cowichan Tribes member Daniel Norris told CHEK News the fatality is hitting them all hard.
“It’s scary,” said Norris. “We have members that are sick, they’re hospitalized and we don’t know the condition that they’re in until we find out if they’ve made it or if not.”
Elder Albie Charlie said the fight against COVID, which is keeping members apart, is wearing on this community.
“Our hearts are all together. Our prayers are all together,” he said.
Cowichan Tribes stopped sharing its COVID-19 case counts publicly earlier this month, due to repeated racism directed at its members. The last data shared with CHEK News on Jan. 14 reported 96 active positive cases.
However, according to Norris, the community’s efforts are producing results.
“After hearing our last update, our cases are dropping,” said Norris. “So I’m pretty excited about that. That our work is meaning something for our community.”
It’s a hopeful sign, on a day that has left one Cowichan Tribes family grieving and many more trying desperately to stop it from happening again.
Cowichan Tribes is the largest single band in B.C. with 4,900 members. Although approximately 600 elders have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the First Nation community remains in the midst of an ongoing outbreak.
The community has also faced blatant racism since the outbreak began.
Earlier this month, CHEK News featured a piece about a 62-year-old Indigenous woman whose dentist called and cancelled her upcoming appointment due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in Cowichan Tribes.
Other incidents included a Tim Horton’s in Duncan closing its lobby and placing a sign on its door saying the closure was due to the shelter in place order that had been issued by the Cowichan Tribes.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring, said he was disgusted by the comments he read online.
“Really egregious [comments],” said Siebring. “Like why don’t these natives go back to hunting and fishing and isolate themselves from our community. Somebody else said folks that are First Nations that work in retail here they should just be fired until COVID is done.”
In the wake of these negative comments online, a Cowichan Tribes councillor has also launched an online poster campaign to fight against racism.
A shelter-in-place order has been deployed across the First Nation and has been extended until Feb. 5.