A prisoner who stopped in to visit family at Tl’etinqox (Anaham) First Nation west of Williams Lake after being released from a Lower Mainland institution has tested positive for COVID-19.
Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse is urging all of his 700 on-reserve members to isolate with their immediate families as they wait out the incubation period of the virus and determine the impacts of the approximately two-hour contact.
“Unfortunately this is our reality. It’s here. We are not immune. I urge all our First Nations leaders to take all steps necessary to protect your communities. If you’re doing it to protect your families, then you’re doing the right thing,” Alphonse said Tuesday evening (April 21).
Alphonse said the exposure came five days ago when the prisoner, who was not showing any symptoms and still hasn’t, stopped in the community to visit an ill family member on his way to what he believes was a half-way house in Prince George. The chief thought the person transporting the prisoner was a volunteer and has also been tested and is awaiting results.
The community was notified by representatives of the Northern Health Authority, who have done contact tracing.
Alphonse is questioning how a prisoner with COVID-19 could possibly have been released and allowed into communities without any government oversight.
“You would have thought the institution would have tested him. That’s pretty alarming.”
Alphonse is asking residents to “stay home as much as you can, for as long as you can” during the pandemic.
“We’re asking all family members to stay within their homes,” Alphonse said. “It’s gotten really real and we all have to assume we have it for the community’s safety.”
Alphonse said there are many families who are upset by the news and are heeding the warning, but there are also some community members who are not taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously, mainly youth and those with addictions, Alphonse said.
He is also finding since many larger centres are restrictive, such as nearby Williams Lake, Tl’etinqox members are returning to the community to carry on with their addictions.
“It’s scary. As a politician you hope that all your people will listen to you but that’s not reality.”
Alphonse has shut down all roads except the main entrance to the community and is putting security in place this week to man the only entrance to monitor who is coming in, where they are going, what they are doing and if they are sick.
Seeing the suffering that COVID-19 has inflicted around world, and looking back at their history with the Spanish flu and small pox, Alphonse said you can’t help but be afraid knowing it’s here.
“You’d be a fool not to be afraid.”