Despite a spike in recent COVID-19 cases in the Okanagan, Westbank First Nation (WFN) is cautiously hopeful about the community’s reopening.
WFN’s chief administrative officer Pat Fosbery said they’re concerned about the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Kelowna and West Kelowna, but are confident that as long as people continue to do their part in minimizing exposures, the curve will slowly flatten down again.
Fosbery said the nation has been closely following provincial plans and messaging with regards to reopening.
“Through this whole pandemic, we’ve always looked to closely align our actions with (provincial health officer) Dr. Bonnie Henry,” he said.
“We watch her and listen to her messaging and it’s something we try to move lock and step with the province as well.”
He said he regularly communicates with other municipalities as well to see how their reopening activities are going, how they’re handling personal protective equipment (PPE), and how they get the message out to their residents.
So far, reopening has been going well for the nation. As of the end of June, most WFN facilities have reopened, including WFN’s Sportcourt, Sncəwips Heritage Museum, the Health and Wellness Building, parks, and beaches with sports fields open for casual use only.
“It’s been going well, but we’re careful as well. We’re practising social distancing and good hygiene. We have messaging and signage in public places.
We discuss it regularly as a team to ensure that we’re alleviating those anxieties and address the situation on a case by case basis as well,” he added.
Despite the surge, he said they won’t be closing down facilities again though if they had to do it, WFN is ready to do so.
“Right now, we’re at Phase 3 of reopening just as Dr. Henry has recommended and just like where the rest of the province is.”
“We’re just cautiously hopeful. Yes, there’s a spike but I think people anticipate as you go through something like this, that there is going to be a bit of ebb and flow and it’s not just going to be a smooth path,” Fosbery said.
He also confirmed that measures are in place for WFN’s elementary school, sənsisyustən House of Learning, to reopen in the fall. So far, the school and staff are equipped to have in-person learning for all students, but parents who feel they want to keep their children at home are free to do so.