COVID-19 Daily News Digest – December 31st, 2020
B.C. First Nations begin receiving Moderna vaccine in remote communities
Dec. 30 is the first day Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is available for First Nations communities in the province.
So far, ten First Nations communities have received the vaccine.
Dr. Shannon McDonald, the First Nations Health Authority’s acting chief medical officer, says despite the good news, challenges lie ahead.
“People are nervous, and some of the history with First Nations has not been great when it comes to medical care, infectious diseases and other things.”
McDonald believes there is still work in repairing relationships and assuaging fears around the vaccines within the communities.
“There is a level of mistrust that we have to work through,” she says. “This is not a mandatory vaccine, everybody has a choice as to whether or not they want to take it.”
On Dec. 29, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) said it was aware of 628 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on First Nations reserves in B.C.
B.C. ranks fourth in terms of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on First Nations reservations.
As of Dec. 29, ISC reported 2,435 cases in Alberta, 2,207 in Saskatchewan, 2,628 in Manitoba, 232 in Ontario, 229 in Quebec and 3 in Atlantic Canada.
More than 14,000 vaccines administered in B.C.; 11 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours
But Dr. Henry had some positive news to share: the Moderna vaccine has arrived in 10 remote and isolated First Nations communities, which were identified as being “high risk.”
As of Wednesday’s update, 14,027 had received the first dose. Henry herself was given the vaccine made by Pfizer earlier this month.
So far it’s unclear when the second dose will be available, as B.C. has opted not to follow the manufacturers’ advice – instead of holding on to some vials to use as a second dose, the province will give out all of the first doses then wait for more to arrive.
Moderna vaccine arrives in the Yukon
Vaccines will begin being administered Jan. 4 and will be guided by the territory’s vaccine strategy with highest priority groups receiving the vaccine first. That will mean beginning with long-term care residents and staff.
“As in other jurisdictions across the country, these individuals are some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19. We have our dedicated public health experts and continuing care staff to thank for keeping these Yukoners safe over the course of the pandemic,” Frost said.
Other priority groups will include others in group living situations such as group homes and shelters; those over the age of 80; and Yukoners living in rural and remote communities including First Nations.
Further shipments of the Moderna vaccine are anticipated to arrive in the territory in mid-January with the Yukon expected to receive enough doses to vaccinate 75 per cent of the adult population in the early part of 2021. Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are also receiving the Moderna vaccine and will cover most adults who want to be vaccinated.
Vaccines for general public in the Cowichan Valley not expected anytime soon
Island Health has received 1,950 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of Dec. 30, but members of the general public on the Island should not expect to get vaccinated anytime soon.
A statement from Island Health said the vaccines it has received so far began to be distributed to health care workers in the Greater Victoria area on Dec. 22.
“We are still in the process of distributing our initial shipment of vaccine,” the statement said.
“Immunization clinics for staff and physicians, long-term care residents, and rural and remote First Nations communities will expand across Island Health in the coming weeks, as we receive more vaccine.”
“While the immunizations take place, we will need to continue to maintain COVID-19 prevention measures. BCCDC is working closely with partners across B.C., including all regional health authorities and the First Nations Health Authority. This will make sure our system is ready to receive, handle, store and distribute all vaccine types.”
B.C. focusing on first doses of COVID-19 vaccines
“To date, we have delivered 11,930 doses of vaccine to people across British Columbia in every health region now, including over the last five days,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.
The Moderna vaccine, the second vaccine licensed by Health Canada, arrived in B.C. Tuesday with more expected today. It is easier to handle, so it will be sent to rural and remote First Nations communities as well as the North, Interior and some parts of the Island “to be able to provide immunization to smaller long-term care facilities in smaller communities,” Henry said.
The Moderna vaccine can be stored in freezers that can run at around -20 C, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs specialized freezers that can drop to -70 C.
“We are working very closely with our First Nations Health Authority and First Nations leadership in B.C. to make sure that we can identify those communities and people at risk as efficiently as possible,” Henry said. It has been working with First Nations on training and supplies are in place.
The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Dec. 30
Air passengers entering Canada will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in the country, the federal government announced on Wednesday.
Travellers must receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within a 72-hour period prior to boarding a plane — a requirement Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said will be in place “quickly,” although he did not provide an exact date.
The measure does not replace the federal government’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said. “This is not an alternative to quarantine. It’s an additional layer,” Blair said during a public health briefing.
The Canada Border Services Agency also will be increasing its presence at airports across Canada, the minister said. “Additional border officers will be present at various positions to reinforce compliance messaging,” Blair said, adding that teams already have been sent to customs and baggage areas and inspection lines to speak to travellers about their obligations — and the consequences of failing to follow the rules.
Vaccine Rollout Plan:
For the first phase of the vaccine rollout plan, the federal government’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) advised that initial doses should go to these four groups:
- Residents and staff of long-term care homes.
- Adults 70 and older, beginning with people 80 and older, then decreasing by five-year increments to 70 as supply becomes available.
- Health-care workers, including all those who work in clinical settings, and personal support workers who come in direct contact with patients.
- Adults in Indigenous communities, where infection can have disproportionate consequences.
For Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout, NACI recommended that recipients include:
- Health-care workers who are not part of the initial rollout.
- Residents and staff of all other congregate settings (e.g., living quarters for migrant workers, correctional facilities, homeless shelters).
- Essential workers, including police, firefighters and those in food production.
Provincial and territorial governments may make modifications to that list. For example, Alberta’s plan separates the first phase into Phase 1A and Phase 1B — with First Nations, Métis and people 65 and over living in a First Nations community or Métis settlement not getting the vaccine until the second half of the first stage. In Quebec, it was recently decided that caregivers over the age of 70 who visit residential and long-term care homes at least three times a week will be added to the high-priority group.
Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod looks forward to better days ahead in 2021
Chief Scott McLeod said that like everyone else he wants to see the global COVID-19 pandemic come under control in the new year. And he is also looking forward to seeing how the Liberal government might roll out the measures contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The federal government introduced a bill in early December that would see Indigenous people across the country receive more power and self-determination, particularly when it comes to control of their land and water. McLeod said it was a hot topic at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Annual General Assembly which was held virtually in December.
“Originally I took this as a step in the right direction, however I think it’s going to take a bit of time to really unpack a lot of what’s in that legislation and see what the overall impacts to First Nations sovereignty and rights are by this whole domestication of the UNDRIP recommendations,” the chief said. “It was a lengthy debate at the Assembly of First Nations meetings about whether or not First Nations were supporting this, or rejecting it or abstaining from it. It was a bit of a deadlock.”
The chief said he expects his people to continue to follow the COVID protocols into the new year as they have all along. That has helped keep the territory coronavirus-free since the pandemic began.
“So far, so good, Everyone is co-operating, But just like everyone else we’re getting pandemic fatigue but we’ve got to push through. There are better times at the end of this and that’s what we are striving for,” McLeod said.
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Tahltan Nation
The Tahltan Central Government is among 10 B.C First Nations to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
In a Facebook post, the Tahltan Central Government confirmed 600 Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrived in the territory Tuesday (Dec 29).
The post also added representatives from Iskut and Telegraph Creek picked up the doses of the vaccine.
“Our frontline nursing staff are finalizing a vaccine distribution plan and the information will be shared once it is received,” the post said.
The Moderna vaccine was approved by Health Canada on Dec 23 and everyone aged 18 and older in a group of remote and rural Indigenous communities can get the vaccine.
The Tahltan Central Government confirmed they were one of the first Indigenous communities to receive the vaccine on Dec 24.
Atlantic First Nations building geothermal greenhouses to address food insecurity
ST. PETER’S, N.S. – The Potlotek First Nation in Cape Breton is one of several Indigenous communities in Atlantic Canada that is launching a project to address food insecurity using a geothermal greenhouse that can grow produce year-round.
Once complete, the project will also boast a field garden, a large-scale potting shed and a food centre. The Potlotek First Nation initiative is being steered by Digital Mi’kmaq, an Indigenous-led education and training organization that is launching similar projects in five other Indigenous communities in the region.
Tahirih Paul, economic development officer for Potlotek First Nation, said the greenhouse project is also creating jobs for people who have lost work during the pandemic.
On-reserve food options are limited to what the roughly 600 band members can find in convenience stores, Paul said in a recent interview. The nearest grocery store is about a 10-minute drive and its produce section leaves much to be desired, she said, adding that members have to travel about 55 kilometres to reach the larger grocery stores.
“We saw about an 80 per cent decline in employment rates this year (for band members) compared to the last five,” Paul said, referring to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said also affected residents’ ability to buy fresh food.
Paul was looking for solutions to the First Nation’s food insecurity problems when she was approached by Digital Mi’kmaq for the gardening project. Potlotek First Nation broke ground in mid-September, bolstered by funding from United Way.
52,900 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be headed to Alaska in January
The state is currently finalizing recommendations from its advisory committee that will determine which Alaskans to include in the next round — Phase 1B — of COVID-19 vaccination, and plans to share those decisions with the press and the public on Thursday, said Tessa Walker Linderman, who heads up the state’s vaccine task force.
“We’re just taking an extra day to finalize (those recommendations) and make sure it’s good to go,” she said. “We will be working through the weekend to plan what the rollout for Phase 1B will look like.”
Despite the news of more vaccine headed to Alaska, access statewide continues to be extremely limited, with just hospital-based front-line health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, emergency personnel, community health aides and people performing vaccinations currently eligible to receive it.
Many but not all interested and eligible people from this initial group have already been vaccinated, state officials said.
New grant, loan programs to provide support for B.C.’s Métis entrepreneurs
“Whether you’re a microbusiness, a small or medium-sized business, or a new or community-owned business affected by COVID-19, you’re eligible to apply,” says Salter.
The existing federal COVID-19 Emergency Response Loan is now offering more generous funding, with additional funds available for Métis financial institutions in BC. Métis-owned businesses are now eligible to apply for as much as $60,000 in COVID funding, including $40,000 in loans and $20,000 in grants. Métis businesses that have already received approval for as much as $40,000 in AFI-financed loans are now eligible to apply for a maximum additional $20,000 in top-up loans, with up to $10,000 provided as a grant.
“If you’re been considering a business loan please, talk to us first,” Salter says. “Our mandate and structure allow us to provide financing to Métis entrepreneurs that other commercial lenders may not be able to offer”.
Applications for MFCBC’s Core Business Financing Programs, which offer non-emergency funding, have also been expanded, allowing the institution to offer grants in addition to the loans it has provided for the past three years.
Cariboo Métis veteran receives heartwarming gift from Fraser Valley students
“It brought tears to my eyes,” Payette said Monday, holding a brightly coloured children’s drawing with the words “Merry Christmas” scrawled across the centre of it.
“I was quite shocked to see it and quite pleased.”
Along with the Christmas drawing was a typed note, explaining the card came from students in the Fraser Valley who wanted to “do something to show their appreciation for the service you, as a Métis veteran, provided for Canada.”
“This card was handmade by a student as a way to connect this Christmas, at a time when in person connection can be hard,” it noted. “We hope this card finds you well and wish you a safe and happy holiday season.”
Payette is a Métis veteran who served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1969 to 1990. He was stationed in Cypress and many other locations, as combat arms and, later, in the Canadian Air Force.
Sarain Fox talks short doc ‘Inendi,’ COVID-19 in Indigenous communities and listening to elders **Interview**
Global News: This doc is powerful. When you started shooting the project, did you know how deep it was going to get? How deep you were going to get?
Sarain Fox: From the start, I knew that this would be a really emotional and intense experience; mostly for my auntie, I assumed. I did not expect to be so raw and vulnerable myself. In fact, most of the direct-to-camera footage was intended as a guide track for my (amazing) editor. I just let it all out and much of that unfiltered emotion was kept.
The entire crew of Inendi is Indigenous, a shamefully rare thing in Canada (the world, too?). Did that feel empowering and add to the legitimacy of the doc?
My crew was incredibly diverse — majority female and majority Indigenous. I led the project as director, and it felt really good to hire a young Indigenous creative for their first full-length movie as a camera operator. Her name is Sage Petahtegoose and I’ve known her since she was a youth.
I worked with trusted collaborators who were all committed to uplifting my auntie’s story. For that, I have utmost gratitude. I believe it has never been more important for Indigenous storytellers to tell their own stories.
2020 in review: Against COVID and social inequality, Indigenous peoples preserved
Nature saw its ups and downs in 2020, and Conservation News was there for it all. This month, we are revisiting some of the most interesting and significant stories and issues we covered in the past year.
Despite being hit unduly hard by the pandemic, Indigenous peoples around the world made their presence felt in the fight against climate change and the destruction of nature. Some of our most-read stories of 2020 highlighted the critical role Indigenous communities played in protecting nature, and explored how the pandemic and civil rights protests highlighted the need to recognize Indigenous peoples as equal partners in conservation.
Native American Reservations are suffering more in this pandemic because of historic lack of health care
Many factors contribute to the disproportionate COVID burden on reservations, including limited access to healthcare caused by historic governmental neglect. While there are not any Native American reservations in Vermont because the Native Nations that were here ended up in Canadian reservations, this is an important national issue as it greatly affects a significant population of our country.
Native American reservations have experienced higher levels of COVID-19 than many other regions in the United States. Research in April looked at many reservations (287 out of 326) and compared the rate of COVID-19 cases on those reservations with the national rate. It found an average rate of 0.24 COVID-19 cases per 1,000 people on the Native American reservations while the national rate was only 0.057. In other words, the COVID infection rate on the Native American reservations was more than four times higher than that of the total United States population. Death rates are also higher. The Navajo Nation, which is the largest Native American nation in the United States, had a higher COVID death rate than any state in the U.S. as of Oct. 8.