With COVID-19, Influenza, and RSV circulating throughout the winter season, communities are combating the ‘tridemic,’ by encouraging folks to stay at home and self-isolate when they feel sick to protect their vulnerable populations.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation recently released a statement indicating that though it “isn’t in a state of emergency”, members are experiencing an increase in COVID-19, Influenza, and RSV. The statement serves as a reminder of ways to help prevent the spread of respiratory disease within the community.
“There's currently no public health orders,” said Elmer Frank, elected chief of Tla-o-qui-aht and community emergency services manager. “If we get COVID-19, you know, we're relying on an honor system.”
Frank said that when someone is sick, they hope folks take the “necessary precautionary measures” such as staying home and self-isolating, and to continue with general health practices such as washing hands and sanitizing surfaces.
“If you are suffering any illness, please ensure you continue doing your part and stay home and self isolate and stay away from large gatherings,” reads a press release published by Tla-o-qui-aht.
Frank said that though communities have a high vaccination rate, many are vulnerable.
“We’re in a state where we all understand, if someone's sick and can't make it to an event, then we respect that, we understand that,” said Frank. “There's vulnerability in our community all over, whether it's my family or anybody else's family…we still have to be mindful that we need to protect those from any health risks.”
Frank explained that they started to see an increase in COVID-19, Influenza, and RSV in late November, and then again after the holiday season. He noted that over the last three years they have seen increases after the holidays.
Frank notes that the increase in COVID-19 is not only within Tla-o-qui-aht and First Nation communities but also amongst the broader population.
According to the Government of Canada website, the circulation of respiratory illneses increase during fall and winter seasons. Particularly, the current increases are due to the easing of measures and mandates (lockdowns, gatherings, and masks), higher susceptibility to Influenza and RSV due to low circulation rates throughout the pandemic, increased indoor gatherings due to winter weather, and a decrease in personal preventative measures, it reads.
Some preventative measures, according to the Government of Canada, include keeping up to date with vaccines. Health Canada also advises people to stay home when sick, wear a mask at indoor events, improve indoor ventilation, wash hands with warm water and soap, avoid touching the face with unclean hands, “cover coughs and sneezes”, disinfect and sanitize high-touch surfaces, as well as being aware of public health advisories and the advice of local governments.
Frank said that community members and the First Nation have come together to support those throughout their self-isolation periods.
“There is that unity where we won't just let anyone be sick alone,” said Frank.
“I think that it's important to put the message out there to not only our communities, but to all Nuu-chah-nulth communities, that they still have to be taking the necessary precautionary measures to prevent the spread,” said Frank. “It's easiest to stay home when you're sick, because you know you're not putting anybody else at risk.”