The order to close the Ahousaht village of Maaqtusiis to non-residents has been lifted as COVID-19 numbers dropped from 23 cases in mid September to three, elected chief Greg Louie said in a video update to membership on Thursday, Oct. 7.
The update, delivered via live video on social media, began with Chief Louie sending condolences out the families of loved ones lost in the past few weeks. The video was recorded on the evening of Oct. 7 after the third funeral that week. The recent losses were not COVID-related.
But both Louie and Councilor Melinda Swan reminded people to remain vigilant and practice safety measures, like frequent handwashing, mask wearing and social distancing. She noted that 71 people have recently recovered: 49 in Ahousaht and 22 members living away from home. There is one member in hospital.
Louie said that there were three active cases in the community and eight cases amongst members living off reserve. He reminded everyone that people are still awaiting test results and the numbers change every day.
“We ask people to remain calm and be supportive and respectful,” said Louie.
Both the high school and elementary school remain closed, but safety plans are in the works for when they open. This includes provincial heath officer’s orders to wear masks.
Louie said that all children age nine and over will be required to wear masks in public places in accordance with provincial health orders. When school restarts, all school staff and children from Kindergarten to Grade 12 will be required to wear masks at school. They will practice social distancing when at school.
“We have to remember that our children under the age of 11 are not vaccinated…let’s keep them safe,” said Louie.
“Our people have done well in getting our numbers down,” said Swan, adding that Ahousaht numbers came down quickly thanks to the cooperation of community members.
The village is now open to non-residents, meaning Ahousahts living away from home may come and visit with family as long as safety measures are being observed.
Swan asked people that are isolating in the community to leave a tote outside for people to drop care items off for them. In addition, if they wish to receive care packages from the administration, they should contact the band office to arrange deliveries.
“We ask people to stick to your social bubbles,” said Swan.
But what that means exactly is not clear.
“We will leave that to your discretion, but we don’t want to see 50 people in a house for a birthday party,” she added.
Ahousaht has implemented a safety plan for water and land taxi operators. Water taxis have installed partitions between the seats and the boat is to be sanitized after every trip. Same with land taxi service providers.
In addition, if a household member is required to isolate due to illness or COVID contact, then the entire house must go into isolation. Taxi service providers cannot operate their taxis themselves until their isolation period is over.
Ahousaht has posted its safety plan and guidelines both on its web page and on its Facebook Ahousaht Administration page.
Ahousaht’s Holistic Center, Chachum Hiiyup, will resume its pancake breakfasts with up to 12 guests at a time. Elders’ luncheons are still on hold.
Both Ahousaht’s fitness centre and food purchase centres are open with safety protocols in place.
People wanting to schedule appointments for COVID and/or flu vaccines may call Chachum Hiiyup at 250-670-9558. They may call the same number for mental health/addictions support.
According to health officials, the best defense against COVID-19 is vaccination. One vaccine shot offers some protection, the second shot brings the best protection against COVID. The province is now offering third shots to a certain sector of the population.
According to the First Nations Health Authority, some people with compromised immune systems need a third dose to complete their initial vaccine series.
“People with moderately to severely compromised immune systems generally have lower antibody responses from the initial two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series. The third dose can help build antibodies,” said FHNA in an information bulletin.
They go on to say that this third dose is not the same as a booster dose. Booster doses, they wrote, bring antibody levels back to a high protective level if they had decreased over time.
“Most people who have had both doses of COVID-19 vaccine are protected and do not need a booster dose at this time,” they said.
In their COVID update on Oct. 7, provincial health officials stated that there were 624 new cases for a total of 5,929 active cases in British Columbia. In the 24-hour period from Oct. 6 – 7 four people died, including one from Vancouver Island.
For the same period, Island Health reported 79 new cases on the Island for a total of 770 active cases.
The province has delivered 4,103,158 first doses of vaccine to eligible residents over the age of 12. That 88.5 percent completion. As for second doses, 82.1 percent, or 3,804,517, have received immunization as of Oct. 7.
Louie thanked the people for their cooperation and reminded them of a community cleansing ceremony on the morning of Oct. 8, 2021.