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Nuu-chah-nulth Nations calls on province to ‘act now’ after critical COVID-19 situation on Gold River reserve

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) is reporting the first case of COVID-19 on Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation reserve land in Gold River.

Island Health’s medical health officer, Dr. Mike Benusic, says the person stayed home as soon as they felt symptoms of the virus and was tested right away.

Benusic says Island Health communicable disease nurses have identified close contacts of the confirmed case, and are now working with NTC nurses to ensure they are notified, assessed for symptoms, and are self-isolating. 

Judith Sayers, president of NTC, says “having a damaging COVID-19 case on the reserve is something we have been working against for some months now.”

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With about 600 people in the community, Sayers says that this is a “critical situation.”

“When the province opened to Stage 3 without our consent, the numbers of new COVID cases have tripled and even quadrupled daily and we knew it was a matter of time before one of our on-reserve members contracted the virus.”

Sayers says Premier John Horgan and Minister Scott Fraser must “mandate the tables we have set up so we can find immediate solutions to protect our members.”

“We must not wait any longer and certainly do not want an outbreak in our communities before the province reacts,” Sayers says.

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On June 9th, NTC issued four requirements that it wanted in place before the province moved to Stage 3 of its Restart Plan.

But, the council says the province didn’t start paying attention to those requirements until the Heiltsuk, Tsilhqot’in and Nuu-chah-nulth issued a collective statement on June 28th.

It wasn’t until mid-July that a table with the province and the three Nations was established, where they could talk about the requirements: rapid testing, screening of people before coming into the territory, training and implementation of culturally safe contact tracing, and a communications protocol.

The latter of which would ensure Nuu-chah-nulth Nations know the location of a COVID-19 case that is close to their communities, so they could be properly prepared.

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“Despite all our efforts to have B.C. meet our basic health requirements, we have not been able to find viable solutions,” says NTC vice-president Mariah Charleson.

“We call on the government of B.C. and all its health authorities to work closely with NTC and our Nations to support our communities with what we need to prevent the spreading of this devastating virus to our members.”

She says this is a great opportunity for Premier Horgan and the province to “step up to the challenge” and “practice true reconciliation.”

“We demand action,” Charleson adds.

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