The Tsq’escen’emc (Canim Lake Band) has lifted its community lockdown.
The move, which came into effect at midnight, Jan. 30, follows an assessment of the case counts and vaccination results in the community, said Don Dixon, incident commander for the community’s Emergency Operations Centre. Affected families in the Canim Lake Band remain in isolation at this time and the community’s outbreak status will continue for at least another four weeks. Provincial health orders and restrictions on travel into the community remain in effect.
“We continue to use our Secwepemc values to guide our response to the COVID outbreak in our community,” said Chief Helen Henderson. “The Canim Lake Emergency Operations Team has managed to keep our community safe, while dealing with their own sense of loss and stress through the last weeks.”
At last report, the community had 24 active cases and 33 members have recovered, Dixon said in a news release. While no new cases have been reported – the total cases remain at 65 – Interior Health has deemed the community in an “outbreak status” for at least another month.
The Canim Lake Band, located about 40 kilometres east of 100 Mile House, has been in lockdown since Jan. 8 and an outbreak was declared by Interior Health on Jan. 11. Dixon noted the majority of Canim Lake members have had the first round of vaccinations. Although this doesn’t guarantee complete immunity or stop the possible transmission of the virus, he said, it provides an extra layer of protection against COVID-19.
The lifting of the lockdown means students will return to classes as allowed under provincial health orders and ride School District 27 buses, while the Eliza Archie Memorial School will reopen in phases. A limited reopening of the Canim Lake Band is also slated for Feb. 8. More Canim Lake Band members may also visit nearby communities for appointments and to buy groceries and supplies.
SD27 Supt. Chris van der Mark said the district is excited to see the Canim Lake students return to school. “School District 27 appreciates the tremendous efforts of the Canim Lake community in keeping our communities safe,” he said.
In a joint news release, the Canim Lake Band, District of 100 Mile House and Cariboo Regional District ask area residents to be mindful that the community has met provincial health office criteria to end the lockdown and will continue to have COVID precautions in place, including limiting access. The CLB EOC will also continue to support its members to follow the provincial health orders.
“We recognize the impact this outbreak has had on the community,” Cariboo Regional District Chair Margo Wagner said. “On behalf of the Cariboo Regional District, I extend our deepest condolences to the Secwepemc people. The passing of elders has a deep impact on any community. It is even more devastating when we lose vital language and cultural knowledge at the same time as loved ones mourn the passing of a family member.”
District of 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall said he looks forward to seeing the Canim Lake members back in the community.
“I recognize the sacrifices made by the Canim Lake Band have benefited everyone in the South Cariboo. Through collective action and unified response, they not only fought back against the outbreak in their own community, but they helped to reduce the risk of virus transmission in the wider South Cariboo area,” he said.
100 Mile House RCMP Staff Sgt. Svend Nielsen said the police will continue to support Canim Lake Band.
“We were extremely proud to be able to support their community during this difficult time,” he said. “Please remember to follow public health orders in place and still enforceable in the 100 Mile Detachment area.”
The Canim Lake Band thanks friends, neighbours and other organizations for their support, as well as United Concrete & Gravel for supplying sand and gravel for road maintenance. The Band also continues to work in close collaboration with the Interior Health Authority and Emergency Management BC.
“It is our strong family values that allowed COVID to take hold in our community. But it is also our strong community values that allowed us to pull together and do what was needed for the good of the community as a whole,” Henderson said. “In the larger picture, we have learned many lessons about dealing with a pandemic that can be used to benefit other communities.”