House parties, impending lockdown and loss; Tl’etinqox chief grapples with COVID-19 challenges

House parties persist

As reckless parties continue, Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse believes it will just be a matter of time for COVID-19 cases to climb in his community where he said they have already lost an elder from complications of the disease.

A 14-day lockdown for the semi-remote Indigenous community west of Williams Lake will take effect 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20.

While most Tl’etinqox members —around 750 who live on-reserve—adhere to the practices strongly advised by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Alphonse said the same could not be said for their young population.

“Those house parties are still going on, and even when the RCMP comes and gives them a fine, they’re still partying,” Alphonse said.

“Those people don’t take the pandemic too seriously, and we’re fearful for them,” he said.

“We’re fearful of all of the spread that’s going to happen within that element of our community, and the scary thing is those people end up going home afterward and going into households and could be spreading the virus there.”

Tl’etinqox Government declared a state of emergency Jan. 18 and confirmed at least 12 positive COVID-19 cases within the community, predicting up to 60 or more by the end of the week.

Alphonse said RCMP are limited, as are Chief and Council when people choose not to adhere to policies meant to protect them and others.

“You have conspiracy theorists out there, and we have that in our own communities,” he said.

“I don’t care how this coronavirus came to be, but it’s here and it’s real and it’s already taken one life from our community.”

The elder who recently passed was a residential school survivor.

Like many survivors, Alphonse said she was left traumatized and distrusting of medical facilities and professionals.

“Even when they’re feeling almost on their death bed is the only time they go into hospitals,” he said.

“She was one of them, and she refused to get checked out, and as a result, she died, we believe, of complications of the coronavirus.”

As the lockdown loomed with members rushing to stock their homes with groceries and essential supplies, Alphonse urged all First Nations people to safely check in on each other and consider getting the vaccine.

He received a first dose of the Moderna shot at the Anaham Sage Health Clinic Jan. 15.

“It isn’t very often in our lives as First Nations people we’re prioritized,” Alphonse said, noting he is grateful to the federal Liberal government.

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