First Nations Chief Medical Officer says Indigenous peoples have fared better than others with COVID-19

First Nations Chief Medical Officer says Indigenous peoples have fared better than others with COVID-19
WatchB.C.'s First Nations Health Authority announced today fewer than 90 Indigenous people in the province have tested positive for COVID-19. April Lawrence looks at why.

First Nations members have “fared even better” than the rest of the population regarding COVID-19, with only 87 confirmed cases in the First Nation Health Authority (FNHA) since the start of the pandemic.

Dr. Shannon McDonald, Chief Medical Officer of the FNHA, says from January 1 to June 14, only 87 Indigenous people have tested positive from the coronavirus out of 5,500 tests, and there are only 3 active cases in B.C. as of June 26.

In a press conference on Friday, the FNHA’s top doctor says of the 87 confirmed cases, 42 live near or on a reserve.

There have been four COVID-19-related deaths in the FNHA since the start of the pandemic.

First Nations communities did not see the virus in many children, as there were no cases under the age of 10, and there were six cases of members with ages ranging from 10 to 19-years-old.

“The credit for this relative success must go to the choices the leaders of First Nations have made to implement strong public health measures,” says Dr. McDonald.

“Canadians have made unnecessary travel very limited, and cancelled or postponed large gatherings that are central to their culture and way of life. The sacrifices made, some of them very difficult and painful, have paid off.”

She says the worst, which many feared and anticipated, did not happen and transmission of the virus within and between communities was kept to a small number.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says everyone in B.C. needs to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, and that First Nations communities have done a great job in flattening the curve.

“Communities need to do what’s right for them, at the pace that’s right for them, and for many, including me, it is a slow and cautious approach, is the way to go,” says Dr. Henry.

Many First Nation communities implemented their own COVID-19 response, doing what they could to stop the spread of the virus.

“Many communities stood up emergency operation centres and some when into lockdown, restricting non-residents from coming into the community except for essential services,” said Dr. McDonald.

She mentioned how many Indigenous communities still have concerns about non-residents on their territories, bringing the virus, but says she will continue to work with them to prevent that from happening.

Dr. Henry says there are silver linings to the pandemic, especially in First Nation communities.

“I’ve been really heartened by hearing many stories of how First Nation communities have been taking the opportunity to go back to the land and taking their child to learn different traditions,” said the PHO.

These sentiments were mirrored back by the First Nations Chief Medical Officer.

“Opportunities to learn about traditional foods, traditional medicines, language, have not been lost doing this time,” said Dr. McDonald.

“Despite the success, this is no time to lower our guard,” said the medical officer. “The curve has flattened, but it has not flatlined. If we relax our precautions too quickly we could see a surge of cases, and this is why the FNHA recommendations remain in place.”

The recommendations include maintaining a physical distance from others, wash hands frequently, and avoid large gatherings.

She also touched on the anxiety, depression and loneliness some members might be dealing with during this time.

“We also recognize the unintended consequence of what we’ve done,” said Dr. McDonald. “First Nations have always adapted well in the face of adversity, change and even tragedy.”

READ MORE: Racism in B.C. hospitals stop Indigenous people from seeking healthcare in pandemic, says Chief

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence
April LawrenceApril Lawrence

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!