As the third wave of COVID-19 has seen cases spike across Alberta, the Blood Tribe’s pandemic response has kept recent numbers under control, despite the reserve’s unique challenges.
According to the Blood Tribe communications Facebook page, the reserve hit 88 active cases of COVID-19 in the middle of January, but as of Monday that number sat at just 22.
Read more: Blood Tribe seeing spike in COVID-19 cases
“I think the response has been generally pretty good,” said Blood Tribe director of emergency management Rick Soup. “We have hiccups along the way just like everyone else.”
Soup said the different departments working within the Blood Tribe — like the department of health, family and community support services, and social development — have come together and been creative in their response to the pandemic.
“We’re considered the largest reserve — land-based wise — in Canada,” Soup said.
“Our connectivity is somewhat of an issue — we’re trying to increase our connectivity, so we get creative in other ways. For instance, we have a foot patrol that will go door-to-door if necessary.”
Department of health board vice-chair Charles Weaselhead said that as the pandemic has rolled along, it’s become clear that communication is key to a successful response.
“Communication still remains a big factor,” Weaselhead said. “With the Blood Tribe department of health, we recently hired a communications person to provide information out to the community.”
“Our staff… is working constantly, seven days a week, and our lines are always open. We continue to provide the information.”
Blood Tribe communications puts out messaging online daily on its website and social media, asking members to disperse information with those who might not have access to online resources.
Soup said another challenge facing many reserves is that homes are packed quite full.
“Overcrowding in home situations is an issue in a lot of First Nations and Indigenous communities, we’re no different in that regard,” he said.
Soup said when COVID-19 is identified in an overcrowded home, the Blood Tribe has done what they can to help those involved.
“We’ve had to set up things like temporary shelters or sometimes alternative accommodations,” he said.
The Blood Tribe has had a curfew for residents for a number of months, originally between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., but more recently members have been asked to stay in their homes between 8:00 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“I report to chief and council, and they assist in deciding on the curfew,” Soup said.
“We review that every two weeks, and it will be coming up again at the end of April whether we continue to extend that.”
As of Monday, the Blood Tribe had fully vaccinated 1,020 members with two doses, and another 2,808 people had received one dose.
The Blood Tribe’s main vaccination centre has been in Standoff, but Soup said more remote areas have seen satellite stations set up to offer shots as well.
“It’s coming along, but we do have some issues that we need to consider; transportation — being able to transport some of our members — there’s a couple of departments that are assisting in this regard,” he said.
Weaselhead said the department of health has adapted to aid residents unable to travel.
Weaselhead said talks with both Alberta Health and First Nations and Inuit Health have been constant, with everyone learning more about the virus all the time.
“That communication is very, very open, and it’s always ongoing with the day-to-day activities,” he said. “We find that no two days are alike.”