Woman from Alert Bay is first COVID-19 death in a B.C. First Nations community
Published Saturday, April 25, 2020 4:01PM PDT Last Updated Thursday, May 14, 2020 11:10AM PDT
VANCOUVER -- A woman from Alert Bay has died of COVID-19, becoming the first death from the novel coronavirus in a First Nations community in British Columbia.
Officials from the remote community on Cormorant Island near the northern tip of Vancouver Island confirmed the death Saturday, saying the woman had died Friday.
"We're thinking of family, thinking of friends in this time, and praying for you," said Dr. Dan Cutfeet of the 'Namgis Health Centre in a video message posted on Facebook.
Cutfeet thanked community members for the efforts they've made to stop the spread of the virus in Alert Bay, where officials declared a state of emergency last week and imposed a nightly curfew amid an outbreak in the village.
He encouraged anyone in the community experiencing respiratory symptoms, stomach issues or fever to come forward and get tested for COVID-19.
"There's no shame in this," Cutfeet said. "This is a virus that anyone can catch if exposed."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced two additional deaths from COVID-19 Saturday, bringing the provincial total to 100.
She made particular note of the Alert Bay death, though she did not name the community directly.
"It's a tragedy for all of us," Henry said. "Our elders, in particular, in our First Nations communities are culture- and history-keepers. When they become ill and when they die, we all lose. And I want you to know that we feel that collective loss today."
Henry offered her condolences to the woman's family and community, saying she understands it's especially difficult to mourn the deaths of elders during the pandemic, when large gatherings are banned and people are expected to maintain physical distance from others.