Residents are breathing a sigh of relief as cases have dropped dramatically after a tense two weeks in the Bella Coola Valley. After posting a high of 59 cases, The Nuxalk Nation Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) posted on Jan. 20 that there are now only 30 active cases and that 29 people have now recovered. There have been no new cases announced since early in the week.
The first drop-in vaccine clinic for Nuxalk elders 65 years and over was well attended with 75 elders being vaccinated. Hospital staff, long-term care residents and those at the Mountain View Seniors Lodging in Bella Coola were also vaccinated.
“I asked Dr. Peimer last week if they could come here and do group vaccination. We all felt we should as the environment we live in here with the common spaces,” said resident Elaine McLean. “I had to send list of names and ages of who wanted it. The nurses phoned and came over. There was 8 out of 10 here who got it. I was so happy with Dr. Peimer for going out of his way on the weekend to help us.”
Nuxalk EOC Director Iris Siwallace said that she felt those who self-disclosed on social media helped the EOC and health teams get a hold on the outbreak before it spiralled out of control.
Testing was also offered to anyone who wanted it; people didn’t need to have symptoms to get a test and as a result nurses tested dozens of people of the course of the week. This revealed more cases and as a result the Nuxalk community went into lockdown, which is still under effect.
Siwallace said leaders are starting to feel that the outbreak is getting under control, but that the official contact tracing techniques used in larger communities like Vancouver are not effective or fast enough for First Nations communities which face different challenges.
“The pathway doesn’t work for on-reserve communities like ourselves.”
Clear communication was credited as the best tool for keeping the community informed and up-to-date. The EOC updated the community daily since the first cases were reported, and this helped people to understand what they were up against and the seriousness of the infection.
“One thing that alleviated a lot of the stress in our community was keeping them informed and updated daily. It was just a lot of communications we did that kept everybody at ease.”
A clear commitment for more vaccinations, as well as those who might be vaccinated next, hasn’t yet been released by Vancouver Coastal Health.