Tracy Paquette is in serious but stable condition at Prince George Hospital, and family and friends have gathered for online prayers of support.
Paquette’s brother Sylvester Apsassin said his sister had been sick the previous week with what doctors thought was a kidney and bladder infection.
But the infection spread to his lungs and Paquette was evacuated Monday from Fort St. John as his condition worsened. The family said they were told Wednesday that they had tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“She was fighting for her life Tuesday and Wednesday, and today is stabilized,” said Apsassin on Thursday.
Paquette, in his late 40s, is from the Blueberry River First Nation and works at the Peace Villa nursing home in Fort St. John. Blueberry River confirmed that one of its members had tested positive and issued a mandatory travel directive for residents.
Northern Health said Thursday there were no outbreaks in area facilities, and provincial health worker Dr. Bonnie Henry did not report any new outbreaks in long-term care facilities and assisted living in British Columbia. Last week, Dr. Raina Fumerton, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health for Northern Health, said that only one case of staff or resident was considered an outbreak.
Paquette’s last shift at Peace Villa was about two weeks ago. Northern Health officials would not speak of individual cases or details of the tests across the region, citing privacy.
“Northern Health has a rigorous public health protocol in terms of contact tracing, testing and surveillance in facilities to detect potential concerns in the event of an outbreak,” said spokesperson Eryn Collins. “Our goal is to do everything we can to make long term care facilities as safe as possible, to try to reduce the possibility of entry into long term care, and to have a VERY low threshold to respond immediately if we have concerns about and we have strict infection control practices that follow provincial guidelines to which we adhere when an outbreak is declared. “
The news of a positive diagnosis came as a shock to Paquette’s family and friends. Apsassin says his family has not traveled recently.
“How did she get it and where did she get it from?” None of us have left Peace River country. How do you get it if they haven’t gone anywhere? Said Apsassin.
Apsassin said he did not know who all may have been in contact with his sister and that he did not want to speculate.
“This is very serious,” said Apsassin. “I don’t know how my sister got this virus, honestly, I don’t know. Nobody knows. All right, they’re just investigating it and I hope they can find out and follow his movements. “
Apsassin said his family was ordered to isolate himself. He says he and his wife are doing it at Blueberry River, which has now set up roadblocks and set up security to control access to the inside and outside of the community. Non-residents are not allowed to enter and travelers are ordered not to enter the community.
“Following the best medical advice available, BRFN will take all possible measures to protect the community and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community and surrounding jurisdictions,” said Chief Marvin Yahey in a statement. “We have been deploying our pandemic plan for several weeks. We are now taking more restrictive measures in light of the case that has been confirmed today. We will work with provincial and federal health workers, the RCMP, neighboring jurisdictions, as well as our internal team to take a unified and coordinated approach to this problem that threatens our particularly vulnerable community. “
As of April 9, 24 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in northern British Columbia. Their precise locations are not disclosed. Northern Health says it has registered cases in all of its local health service areas and in communities, large and small. Dr. Fumerton, Acting MHO, says residents should assume COVID is anywhere.
Apsassin said it was important for residents of Fort St. John and the Peace region to understand the severity of this virus and to follow public health orders to limit its spread throughout British Columbia.
“They will give her the best possible care, which is good because she is one of them,” said Apsassin. “The doctors are very optimistic that she will be fine. It caught us off guard. Be extremely careful and take it seriously. Take it seriously. It’s a very serious thing. “
Dr. Henry said Thursday there are 20 long-term care facilities in British Columbia. with an active epidemic of COVID-19. Three others were declared completed.
To date, 235 positive cases have been associated with long-term care and assisted living in British Columbia, infecting 143 residents and 92 employees.
“As you know, the vast majority of those who die are seniors and long-term care residents,” said Dr. Henry.
“We recognize that long-term care and assisted living residents are very vulnerable to COVID-19, and … what we are trying to do is make sure that the workers who provide care and services to those in care are able to work in a single installation. “
Collins said Northern Health has implemented measures in all of its long-term care facilities to protect the health of residents.
“These measures include visiting restrictions, suspension of volunteer work, and the use of personal protective equipment by staff to protect residents – and all of these measures are in accordance with provincial guidelines from the Department of Health and the provincial official. of health, “said Collins.
Northern Health does not disclose the number of Peace Villa residents and staff who have been tested for the virus, the number of hospital staff who have been tested, or whether they are self-insulating.
“Establishment breakdowns of the number of people tested in an establishment / community are not available for publication,” said Collins. “For any confirmed case, close contacts will be informed by public health and supported in the actions to be undertaken. “
Seniors are among the most vulnerable to a serious health complication or death from COVID-19. In British Columbia, the median age of those hospitalized is 68 and the median age of the deceased is 86. Nationally, about a third of cases are 60 years of age or older.
Dr. Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix urged British Columbians not to travel and to congregate in the run up to a number of religious holidays, including Passover, the long Easter weekend and Ramadan.
“Now is the time for us to pay special attention to our seniors and our elders,” said Dr. Henry. “Our elders hold our history, our language and our traditions, and are a precious part of our communities in this province. Through these celebrations in the coming weeks, please keep this in mind so that we can maintain our safe distance to protect them. . “
This is a developing story.
Email Matt Preprost editor at [email protected]