First case of COVID-19 reaches remote Klahoose First Nation

·3 min read

Klahoose First Nation is going into lockdown after an Elder in the remote Cortes Island community tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

“I received the call today that no Chief wants to hear,” wrote Chief Kevin Peacey in a community Facebook post. “We have a COVID team in place that is already working on our response. We are asking all reserve residents to stay home as contract tracing happens.”

Occupying traditional territories from Cortes Island to Toba Inlet, the Klahoose Nation‘s primary village site, Squirrel Voce, is home to approximately 75 full-time residents who live and work on Cortes Island and surrounding areas.

The remaining three hundred and nine members reside off reserve in coastal communities in the lower mainland and in Washington State. The community is accessible only by boat or plane.

“I won’t be seeing any of my family for a while, which is sad, but it is what’s best,” says Ashley Harry, member of Klahoose First Nation. “With the confirmed case, they have the road blocked off and monitored 24-7, as of tonight.”

One Elder is at home with mild symptoms. A public health nurse has visited her home, and the family says she has what she needs, including groceries.

All reserve residents were asked to stay home, and wear masks if they absolutely have to leave their home.

“No visiting households. No off reserve visitors,” Chief Peacey wrote. “Food and supplies are being delivered to each household.”

Meanwhile, a new playground was just completed this week. It’s where Harry spent the day Tuesday with her kids, before they got the news about the new positive case.

“I might have been exposed yesterday,” Harry worries. “I was thinking, hoping fresh air will help and that it wasn’t an enclosed space. I follow the rules, don’t go to anyone’s house. It will be a long 14 days.”

Harry has two young children. Her family will be staying at home until they know they are in the clear.

“I’m praying I won’t get sick, we will have to wait and see. Scary times,” Harry adds.

Chief Peacey informed community members that a security team would be placed at the main entrance at Tork Road, to monitor traffic into Klahoose, “which should be limited to only emergency and essential trips on and off reserve at this time,” he says.

Having children to care for and protect includes careful conversations around COVID-19, and managing young anxieties and fears.

“My son started crying when told we might be exposed,” says Harry. “I explained we have to do the right thing and quarantine, till we know we’re not carriers.”

She says the Klahoose COVID-19 team had brought food to her home right away, ensuring every household has enough food and supplies.

“I never really thought I’d be one exposed, you watch on the news, daily basis,” says Harry. “I’m more concerned for my children’s wellbeing.”

Chief Peacey’s main tone was one of reassurance.

“We are staying calm, supporting each other, and following the guidelines,” Chief Peacey wrote. “With everybody’s help, working together, we will get through this. We are praying for everyone’s protection and healing."

Odette Auger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse