This web page contains up to date Questions & Answers for Cowichan Tribes members. It will be updated regularly as new questions are asked and more information about the COVID-19 pandemic response becomes available.
Cases of COVID-19 in the Cowichan Valley are not increasing rapidly at present, likely due to social distancing. Members are urged to continue physical distancing and to self-isolate if experiencing flu-like symptoms. Call your family Doctor, 8-1-1, or Ts’ewulhtun Health if unsure.
Who is leading the response?
Chief and Council are meeting weekly to monitor the situation and make key decisions. The General Manager is working with Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre and all Departments to respond effectively to the pandemic. While offices remain closed until further notice, Cowichan Tribes employees are still working to offer essential services and ensure the safety of all members.
Does Cowichan Tribes have a pandemic response plan?
Yes, Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre has a communicable disease (pandemic) plan, which we have been actively implementing since March 11. The pandemic response team is closely monitoring the health of the community, providing key updates to Chief and Council, and adapting our response based on the latest information. A Working Group was also established. Our response continues to be guided by provincial directives and instructions provided by the Island Health Authority, as well as our Quw’utsun teachings and protocols.
How do I keep me and my family safe?
The best way to keep you and your family safe is to follow the guidelines of health authorities and medical professionals. These include practicing physical distancing (staying 6 feet or 2 meters apart from others), wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue (throw in trash) or inside elbow, disinfecting surfaces and objects that are often touched, limiting trips outside the house (e.g. shopping) and wearing a mask, and avoiding social or cultural gatherings. If you are sick or have symptoms, you are expected to get tested, stay home, self-isolate and call Health Link BC at 8-1-1.
How has Cowichan Tribes responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?
- On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a Global Pandemic. On that day the Cowichan Tribes Pandemic Response team and plan was activated.
- On March 17, on the advice of the Pandemic Team, Cowichan Tribes closed its offices with a re-open date of March 31. All Departments switched to essential services and implemented strict social distancing recommendations for all staff and community.
- On March 24, Chief and Council mandated an indefinite office closure and essential services only, which was confirmed on April 1 by a Chief and Council Resolution.
- Following office closures, Cowichan Tribes staff immediately began to support Elders and families in need with regular check-in calls and food deliveries.
- Regular updates have been provided to members about COVID-19 including up-to-date provincial and national information and resources through the Cowichan Tribes website including videos and the official Facebook page (please like and follow us).
- The April and May newsletters were Special Editions dedicated to informing members about our COVID-19 response, including how essential services are being delivered.
- We have been working with local, provincial and federal partners to align ourselves with COVID-19 response guidelines and identify resources and supports available.
- We have developed a comprehensive economic response that includes food security for Elders and members in need, a cash distribution, technology supports for students and employees, as well as Personal Protective Equipment and cultural supports for members.
- Cowichan Tribes has matched the $1.1 million contribution from the federal government with its own revenue for a total of $2.2 million. For an overview of this economic response, please see the Cowichan Tribes COVID-19 Economic Response Infographic.
- A COVID-19 Response Line (250-715-3339) and email (email@example.com) were launched on May 11 with Community Navigators to assist members in accessing programs and services available to them.
- Throughout this time, Ts’ewulhtun Health communicable disease nurses have monitored the pandemic and provided the latest information to inform Chief and Council and all Departments and to ensure that precautions are being taken to keep members and employees safe.
How long will social distancing and essential services go on?
Social distancing measures (keeping 6 feet/2 meters distance and refraining from gatherings and visiting vulnerable relations) will likely persist for the next 18-24 months or until there is a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 illness. Precautions of physical distancing and hand hygiene are most critical for Elders and those with ongoing health conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, lung disease, etc.).
It is difficult to predict when a return to full services will occur. The BC government announced its Restart Plan, a phased-in approach to re-opening of services across the province beginning in mid-May. Chief and Council and Administration will make decisions based on the advice of the Cowichan Tribes Pandemic Health team and provide updates and timelines as soon as they become available.
How are Elders being supported?
The Elders kitchen is providing meals on wheels from Monday to Friday for our most vulnerable Elders and a Food Box for approximately 50 Elders a week (those who have been attending the lunch program). The Elders Nurse program is also doing a daily phone call check-in. Most Elders are fortunate to have dedicated family members who are providing ongoing supports. Cowichan Tribes will continue to monitor the situation closely and find ways to best support Elders. It is especially important to practice physical distancing with Elders as they are more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.
Are Cowichan Tribes employees still working?
Yes, employees are still employed. They are providing essential services and/or working remotely. Those providing essential services who come to work or interact with members are following procedures to limit the possibility of exposure, such as rotating shifts and regularly disinfecting surfaces. Some employees who cannot perform their usual duties are being asked to perform other duties to support our overall response to the COVID-19 emergency. Departmental reviews are being carried out with each department through the support of communicable disease nurses to ensure the health and safety of all employees and the members we serve.
Can we still host cultural ceremonies in public with other people?
The answer during this pandemic is – no. We all know that our culture is an important aspect of our way of life for all Quw’utsun people and families. Our culture and ceremonies are especially important during difficult times and to honour important shifts and events such as grief and loss, the transition from winter to spring, or to simply support those in need. At this critical time, it is important for all members to consider postponing all cultural or ceremonial gatherings to the end of 2020. Due to the impacts of colonization, our community is extra vulnerable to being negatively impacted, and we must take every precaution possible for the health of our community.
As of May 16, the province has stated that people will be able to slowly expand their social circles to gatherings of two to six people, but this must be done with extreme caution and continued mindfulness of spreading germs to Elders and those with underlying health conditions. Restrictions on gatherings will continue to be implemented.
We ask that you tie the teachings of caring for one another to good physical distancing at this time; this includes avoiding all gatherings and limiting trips outside of the house. It’s normal to feel challenged in these times, but we must all do our part to limit and prevent spreading the virus. Our community is resilient and has faced epidemics before and we will get through this by being kind, helpful and caring for one another.
Has Cowichan Tribes received funding to respond to COVID-19?
Yes. Cowichan Tribes has received $1.1 million in funding through Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). This amount is based on a colonial formula that does not fully meet the needs of our large membership. As a result, Cowichan Tribes is providing $1.1 million of its own revenue to support all members, on and off-reserve, during the pandemic.
For an overview of these supports and how the $2.2 million in funds will be allocated, please see the Cowichan Tribes COVID-19 Economic Response Infographic.
Is other funding available for members?
Cowichan Tribes members may be eligible for funding supports offered by the Provincial and Federal Governments. If you have been laid-off or asked to go on leave, or need to stay home to care for children, you may be eligible for supports such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and other benefits. Members are encouraged to pursue these options. Filing your taxes may help you access these and other benefits (child benefit, GST credit, etc.). Please note the $2,000 CERB is taxable income, and recipients should put aside funds for income taxes. Business owners are also eligible for some relief. We will continue to explore all available funding for Cowichan Tribes members, both on and off-reserve, and will share this information as it becomes available.