With the number of COVID-19 cases at Tla’amin Nation now at 10, Hegus Clint Williams is warning others not to let their guard down.

“We’ve enjoyed zero cases here in the Tla’amin traditional territory for a long time,” Williams said. “We’ve been dealing with this since March and we’ve been very fortunate up to now. It just became very real. It just seemed like it was never going to get here, and next thing you know, we’re in the situation 

On top of the 10 lab-confirmed cases, there are a number of people experiencing symptoms and awaiting test results. 

The nation has enacted a Shelter in Place Executive Order to protect its citizens and neighbouring communities.

Yesterday, in collaboration with Vancouver Coastal Health, Tla’amin Nation held a drive-thru testing site at its health centre, and over 50 members got tested. 

Test results take between 24-48 hours, and those with positive results are contacted right away.

Those who have tested positive are recovering at home under the supervision of healthcare providers or receiving care at Powell River General Hospital.

Tla’amin individuals and families seeking help for things like grocery delivery and essential supplies, and Powell River residents offering help, are encouraged to connect on the Powell River Mutual Aid Facebook site.

A letter to the nation from Vancouver Coastal Health said anyone who attended a wake at the Salish Centre (Tla’amin Gym) on Sept. 3rd or a funeral in front of the Catholic church on Waterfront Road on Sept. 4th “may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19.”

Anyone who attended one or both of those, are asked to check for symptoms for 14 days and if they develop, to self-isolate for 10 days.

“A few of the people who I have spoken to that were infected said they had such minimal contact,” Williams said. “They talked about it being one minute, two minutes and they let their guard down just that little bit, and next thing you know they were positive. It always happens when you least expect it.”

Williams said their No. 1 priority is to limit the spread.

“We want to attack this hard, and this is why we’re trying this lock down in our community, so we can limit the spread. We don’t want it to spread in and around our village, and in and around the Powell River area,” Williams added. “What we’ve been doing with that is we’ve secured the community – we’ve blocked off the entrances to the Tla’Amin village and one in-and-out access point which is Tla’Amin Road and we have a barricade there that is staffed to record who is coming in and out.”

Within the nation, members are being asked to stay within their bubble, not leave their homes, and to keep to themselves, Williams explained.

“The key phrase is significant exposure,” he said. “We want to make sure that nobody has any significant exposure to anyone that is outside of their bubble.”

Williams knows each person who has been infected. He said the initial symptoms included body aches and sore throat.

“I believe that it’s amping up today,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “People are getting a little more ill. I haven’t spoken to any of them today but I know that the sickness is amping up and it’s getting a little more severe. We’ve had a couple people go to the hospital today and so it is getting a little more serious. It’s not as mild as some would believe.”

Williams has a message to everyone in the surrounding communities:

“Be kind, be safe, be calm, and please don’t be so judgmental of the Tla’amin community and our members. This is a volunteer lockdown. Tla’amin  did not have to do this. We did this for respect of our overall community and just trying to prevent the spread. Educate your children on how getting COVID can happen to anyone.  COVID is not just in Tla’amin Nation. It can happen to anyone like the common cold. Thank you for the donations and support, and we appreciate the positive messages out there and the support from the surrounding community is great.”

Official information can be found on the Nation’s website.