by Brandi Morin
(ANNews) – The Blood Tribe Department of Health has three active cases of COVID19 and all of them are contained within the reserve, reports Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, one of the physicians helping to oversee care to approximately 9,000 on-reserve members of the southern Alberta tribe.
“We have them quarantined. We know they’re staying home,” said Tailfeathers who said the infected tribal members were connected to each other.
However, a projected wave of outbreaks has seemed to have passed them by, she said. And Kainai is proud of the hard work it put into preventing the virus from wreaking havoc there. The nation is self-sufficient and hasn’t had to ask the province for assistance because of good planning and team work, she says.
“We have lots of valuable human resources. Each department allocates tasks. We have a lot of good people from our tribe working together; it’s nice to see our community do this for ourselves,” she said.
Access to testing has played a role in easing fears, she added; the Blood Tribe has tested 1,600 people so far. “When we test people it helps them feel a lot more secure that it’s not in the community. If our people continue to do a good job of listening and stay home then we won’t have a surge.”
The Kainai healing lodge, a treatment centre for addictions, was transformed into an area for immunocompromised elders in need. Entrance to the building requires staff to undergo a three stage “decontamination” process says lodge director Shauna Fox.
“It provides us and them (elders) with a sense of security,” she said.
Fox helped organize the transition of the space which is being utilized by elders who are vulnerable to COVID19 or live in overcrowded housing. Two elders are currently staying in the 24-bed facility, she says. But that number shifts from day to day.
“Sometimes I’m wondering why? Why did we do all this? To be prepared. It’s worth us doing all the hard work. Some of us were working seven days a week so that we weren’t scrambling at the last minute,” said Fox. “Now, everyone’s feeling more secure. Our elders, traditional knowledge keepers, feel safe and taken care of.”
Another administrative building on the reserve is now functioning as a shelter for community members in need. A camp of tents provided by the nation is growing on the lawn of the building to help those struggling with addictions to stay put during the pandemic.
“We are meeting them halfway by making things more comfortable for them,” said Tailfeathers, who explained the Health Department has implemented a managed alcohol program there.
A community overdose harm reduction site started in 2018 to help address the opioid crisis there is under lockdown.
According to Fox, the nation’s housing department went door to door handing out information pamphlets to over 2,000 households at the start of the global crisis. A curfew is still in force from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“It’s really helped,” said Fox. “I’m pretty proud of our nation. Fingers crossed we won’t have an outbreak.”
Brandi Morin is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter.