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COVID-19 positivity rate higher for B.C. First Nations than other communities: health officials

Click to play video 'B.C. First Nations communities faring better than average in the fight against COVID-19' B.C. First Nations communities faring better than average in the fight against COVID-19
(JUne 26) B.C. First Nations communities faring better than average in the fight against COVID-19

The First Nations Health authority says the COVID-19 positivity rate among First Nations people is rising higher than the rate among other British Columbians.

The rate of positive cases among First Nations members was at 200 per 100,000 people as of Sept. 15, compared with 144 per 100,000 people among other British Columbians.

Read more: First Nations people have fared better than B.C. average in COVID-19 pandemic: report

“In the last probably three weeks total (there were) some community clusters that became bigger,” said acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald.

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Some of the transmission is happening in multigenerational houses and in places where there may be a housing shortage, McDonald said, but added that there have also been clusters linked to events like funerals.

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Funerals are conducted according to cultural norms and are hugely important to grieving loved ones, McDonald said.

Read more: Indigenous people need more support to weather 2nd wave of COVID-19: experts

But amid COVID-19, she said families will need to honour their loved ones differently for the time being in order to protect community elders who are crucial holders of knowledge and traditions.

“[One community said] we only have 14 fluent language speakers left in the community. When they are gone it’s lost,” McDonald said.

“Best? Less than 10 people, graveside ceremony outside, plans for something later,” she said.

McDonald said the health authority is monitoring three or four ongoing clusters in First Nations communities, with another two “more or less resolved.”