Positive COVID-19 test puts Lake Babine Nation vaccinations on pause

·3 min read

Efforts to provide Lake Babine Nation's elderly residents with COVID-19 immunizations were suspended Thursday, after a member of the vaccination team tested positive for the virus.

Violet Findlay, who was assisting with the vaccine rollout at the First Nation in the Burns Lake area in northern B.C. announced her positive test in a social media post on Wednesday.

"Well my test came back positive, I am so heartbroken," Findlay wrote. "Please people stay home. Need someone to encourage mom [and] dad to take the vaccine today."

According to Bernard Patrick, emergency operations centre director with Lake Babine Nation, Findlay — who is a home support worker in the community — was helping the team coordinate the vaccinations and manage scheduling.

Patrick said vaccinations had begun this week, with 50 residents who are 65 and older identified as candidates. He said many of them were reluctant to get immunizations, but 26 received shots on Wednesday before the clinic was put on pause.

'People are kind of nervous'

Lake Babine Nation health director Emma Palmantier said the team was notified about Findlay's test result just before Wednesday's clinic opened. She said other health care workers would be tested as a result, and the community's administrative office was closed and sanitized on Thursday.

"People are kind of nervous and wondering, you know," said Palmantier. "There was an outbreak because people didn't stay within their bubbles. That's what happened."

According to Patrick, the community counted 56 COVID-19 cases in December — 40 confirmed with tests, with the rest linked to other cases. He said since the new year, there have been four confirmed cases, but "it's starting to pick up again."

He said two elders had tested positive for the virus, but the community hasn't had any fatalities.

Patrick said the First Nation, which is mostly spread across three communities — Fort Babine, Tachet and Woyenne — is closed to outsiders. He said during the holidays, even off-reserve members were prohibited from visiting, in line with a public health order banning gatherings.

But he said despite checkpoints and security, movement couldn't be carefully controlled, as restaurants and businesses remained open.

Vaccinations to resume Friday

The vaccination program is set to resume on Friday. There had been 15 people scheduled to receive shots on Thursday before the clinic was suspended. Patrick said he expects all the elderly members of the Tachet community who want to be vaccinated will receive their shots on Friday.

He said the entire community of Fort Babine will receive vaccinations at one time on Jan. 30, because it's so remote. Patrick estimates 70 to 80 people live there.

Findlay's husband, William Findlay, told CBC News that his wife started noticing symptoms on Sunday and that the virus "hit her like a ton of bricks" on Monday.

"She's still in bed today. I haven't seen her yet," he said on Thursday. "I tried NeoCitran and stuff like that, but I don't think it's helping."

Do you have more to add to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.ca

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker