Bracing for COVID-19, coastal communities take cautionary steps

Melissa Renwick, March 17, 2020

Amid fears of a supply shortage, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has sent out boats to collect fish for community distribution, one of several measures undertaken by coastal First Nations as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds. Pictured is the Tla-o-qui-aht community of Opitsaht. (Sam Beebe/Wikimedia Commons photo)

Tofino, BC — 

Coastal communities like Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht are preparing residents as tension mounts within the communities in response to COVID-19.

“I’m just trying to settle the people down,” says Chief Councillor Moses Martin. “Everyone seems to be really concerned about everything.”

As response measures to the virus shift on a daily basis, Tla-o-qui-aht council are strategizing on how to keep its members safe during this unprecedented time.

By sending out boats for food fish in case the virus “hits us hard,” says Martin, they are working to ensure food security for their community.

Ahousaht is also ramping up its efforts to keep community members healthy and safe by stopping any outside business from coming into their community for the time being, says Ahousaht Councillor Melinda Swan.

“We’re going to be heavily monitoring who comes [in],” she says.

Encouraging residents to only travel outside of Flores Island for essential services, like buying groceries or going to the hospital, Swan says all community gatherings, from sporting to cultural events, have been postponed until further notice.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osbourne says that the district of Tofino has a specific role and that is primarily to continue to deliver essential services to the town, like clean drinking water and garbage pick-up. Taking all direction from the provincial government, the BC Centre for Disease Control and provincial Ministry of Health, she says that “messaging could change on a dime.”

Based on the BC Centre for Disease Control testing, Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, announced Monday that there are 30 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 103 cases in British Columbia.

“The individuals are in the Vancouver Coastal, Fraser, Interior and Island health regions and were confirmed positive,” their joint statement says.

British Columbians can reach service representatives seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., by calling 1 888 COVID19.