Northwest B.C. First Nation government urges 3-week pause in cultural gatherings amidst COVID-19 surge

·2 min read

The Nisga’a Lisims Government (NLG) has called for a pause on all large social cultural gatherings in Nass Valley for three weeks starting Oct. 29, to stop the surge of COVID-19 cases.

The three-week circuit breaker (from Oct. 29 to Nov. 19) was introduced on the recommendation of Nisga’a Valley Health Authority’s (NVHA) Medical Director Dr. Jeremy Penner and endorsed by the Nisga’a government, with President Eva Clayton calling on citizens to be “vigilant.”

“We need to consider the health and well-being of our elderly and most vulnerable – it’s time for us to pause, once again,” said Clayton.

The Nass Valley has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases stemming from large cultural gatherings in the month of October, and if they continue, the number of positive cases will increase at a rapid rate, said the northwest B.C. First Nation government in a notice to its citizens.

“… from a health perspective, we are extremely concerned that any further events will result in mass-spreading far beyond what we have already seen,” said Dr. Penner.

On Oct. 26, NVHA reported 19 active COVID-19 cases with 47 test results pending. Majority of cases in these recent cluster outbreaks have been among double vaccinated people, indicated NVHA.

While the Nass Valley has relatively high vaccination rates – between 82 per cent of eligible people are fully vaccinated – the remaining unvaccinated people are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing serious complications, said the NVHA.

The health authority said that many symptomatic people are not coming in for testing due to dislike of the testing and the belief that double-vaccination protects them completely against COVID.

“Because of this, they are unaware of having COVID-19 and it is much more likely they will infect others,” said NVHA.

NVHA has cautioned citizens that despite measures like double vaccination and appropriate precautions in place such as masking and hand-washing, the Delta variant is able to effectively infect people at social gatherings.

“This means that even with strict precautions appropriately observed at gatherings, due to the number of positive cases in community at this time, increased cases will occur which will lead to an exponential increase due to household members becoming infected even if they did not attend the gathering,” said NVHA.

The NLG government also said the circuit breaker is to avoid overwhelming NVHA’s capacity and to help reduce the pressure on healthcare workers especially as they deal with burnout and staff shortage.

READ MORE: Terrace leads northwest in new COVID-19 cases for second straight week

Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Terrace Standard

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