Dr. Shannon McDonald, First Nations Health Authority (FNHA photo)

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

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

(File photo)
Water quality advisory rescinded for Lakeview/Rose Valley Water System

There is no other water quality advisories in West Kelowna

Passengers make their way through Montreal–Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Saturday, December 19, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Dining indoors at YLW’s White Spot allowed despite public health orders

Airport post-security restaurants and BC Ferries cafeterias are exempt from the public health order

(Stock photo)
Snow levels above normal in Okanagan

Spring temperatures, rainfall will affect risk of flooding

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Vernon Secondary School. (Google Maps)
Case of COVID-19 at North Okanagan high school

VSS exposure announced late Friday, April 9

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Royal’s 1951 visit to Revelstoke. (Photo by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #17)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip visited Revelstoke – twice

The prince died April 9 at the age of 99

Nolan's Pharmasave in downtown Vernon received 200 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines Friday, April 9, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
AstraZeneca vaccines arrive at Vernon pharmacies

Four pharmacies in the city received doses of the COVID-19 inoculant Friday

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on Thursday, April 8. (Contributed)
Revelstoke yoga class fined for defying COVID-19 orders

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on April 8

An East Hill resident had their leaf bags torched in front of their home overnight April 8. Less than two weeks prior their garbage can was lit on fire too. (Taryn Allen photo)
Garbage, leaf fires spark fear in North Okanagan

First an East Hill residents’ trash can, then bagged leaves were lit on fire

Okanagan-based All Are Family Outreach Society, which provides support to those struggling from Armstrong to Kelowna, is in need of a new headquarters after leaving a Winfield church in June 2020. (All Are Family Outreach photo)
Okanagan outreach society in ‘desperate’ need after storage unit break-in

All Are Family Outreach had $4,000 in tools stolen from its donation shipping container

Most Read