Despite all the scientific and medical evidence about COVID-19, there are still those who believe the pandemic is not real but is rather a way for government to control the public.
About 100 people calling themselves the Liberty Club gathered in the rain to walk the streets in downtown Vancouver to express their message that COVID-19 is not the threat we are told it is – and that wearing masks is bad for your health.
“No more lies, no more lies,” people from the rally yelled.
“It’s taken a toll on business owners who are operating at half capacity can’t make their bills it’s a terrible thing that’s happening and this is the thing that has brought me out and to stand up,” says Marcella Miku.
She says it’s important to tell the other side of the story regarding COVID-19.
“I believe that the corona virus is a flu. I believe that every year that people die from the flu,” added Miku.
“I sleep well, I have a healthy diet and good hygiene,” says Brodie Williams who was also at the rally. He believes he has immunity against the virus by following those three simple steps.
Across the city is St. Paul’s hospital – where thoughts on the coronavirus is a much different story.
“When you have demonstrations of people saying don’t wear masks and nurses and doctors are creating this hoax when I walk into the patient room wearing an N-95 respirator and I see the patients oxygen saturation so low and them gasping for and them struggling to breathe it seems like an insult,” says Julia Pavlova, a COVID-19 nurse who spoke to us by zoom.
Pavlova says that after ten months of the pandemic frontline workers are feeling the fatigue.
She along with others here on the frontlines risks their life every day going to work and she wants the public to know how dangerous this virus is.
“The reality and the danger of this virus created the need for me to become a COVID nurse and while it is a type of virus like a cold or flu like virus but it’s so much more dangerous,” explains Pavlova.
“How many times have you heard about a person being intubated from someone catching a seasonal flu?”
First Nations Health Authority Acting Chief Health Officer Dr. Shannon Mc Donald says COVID-19 has had a significant human impact in other ways as well.
“The isolation that’s been a requirement of staying healthy the lack of stimulation it’s not like you can go out for a movie or hang out with friends or do some of the other things you would normally do and I especially think of people who have other limitations who live away from family and friends who have disabilities,” says Mc Donald.
According to Mc Donald the pandemic has also brought on depression for many who also deal with addictions. British Columbia marked its worst year on record in 2020 with a reported 1,716 deaths from opioid overdoses- that’s a 74 per cent increase from last year.
Experts say that could be attributed to people using alone while in isolation – another factor is that street drugs are becoming more toxic because of the US Border closure along with dangerous additives being mixed into a dwindling drug supply.
“Anyone using an illicit substance should do so in the presence of someone willing and able to administer naloxone and call for emergency medical help,” stated BC’s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe.
In Vancouver’s tent city in Strathcona Park, the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic are real concerns.
On a recent trip going to collect traditional medicines – Elder and Firekeeper Veronica was exposed to COVID-19 – but her test results were negative.
Officials say the fact that people staying in close quarters in tents and very few wearing a mask or properly sanitizing could be the perfect storm for an outbreak
She shared with APTN News that Indigenous people have been through so much already.
“I got a thousand ancestors walking right with me gave me this body these legs this entire being I am today resisted so much so much smallpox infested blankets influenza cough even a cold never even had anything like this,” says Veronica while gathering wood at the sacred fire.
Right across the country, many Indigenous communities are also under lockdown conditions as numerous outbreaks have been reported.
The Cowichan Tribe on Vancouver Island is one of those communities who has a stay in place order-
“The situation in the community right now is very concerning we learned about our first cases of covid-19 on December 31st, we have been preparing for COVID to affect the community for the last ten months but none the less it was quite shocking,” says Fairlie Mendoza – a Community Nurse.
Within two weeks there were 96 cases within the Cowichan Tribe and they just reported their first death from COVID-19. Sadly they are also dealing racism during this crisis says Band Councillor Stephanie Atleo.
“There has been comments regarding alot of stereotypes around First Nations you know we are uneducated we are unclean talking about the addictions finding fault in us that’s has caused us to bring it into the Cowichan Valley and spread it. The issue is if you have brown skin its assumed you are COVID positive and you should be at home.”
Dr. Margo Greenwood from the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health says that racism against Indigenous people is not uncommon but it’s especially tragic during a pandemic.
“COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate people discriminate – so when I think about COVID-19 I see COVID-19 as an illness I see stigma and discrimination as a social sickness.
The Cowichan Tribe say they are no longer reporting the number of cases publicly.
For Indigenous Frontline Workers – the stress of the pandemic is ten – fold. Wagella Marie works on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – she has been tested for COVID-19 15 times.
“We are the ones that are out there on the frontlines and we are not getting the proper information it’s scary we are not being properly protected we need proper masks and gloves just like the hospitals are receiving!” says Wagella adding “We need protective clothing we are going with makeshift masks that we making on our own and you know just taking steps to wash our clothes when we go home but in that terms our families are than at risk!”
Part 3 of COVID in the Community airs tomorrow on APTN National News.