The Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) released a community bulletin just before midnight last night (July 17) to notify residents of Haida Gwaii that they had received a self-reported case of COVID-19 on the islands.
The bulletin also said the CHN had received reports from community members who have been notified of possible exposure and are self-isolating.
Anyone with symptoms is asked to phone the Northern COVID-19 online clinic to be referred for testing if appropriate. Call 811 or Northern Health’s Online Clinic at 1-844-645-7811. Online clinic hours are Monday to Friday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and statutory holidays.
“At this time, everyone must use extreme care, kindness and caution,” the bulletin said. “Continue to observe the Haida Gwaii state of emergency COVID-19 measures: respect physical distancing, wash your hands before and after touching your face.”
Around the same time as the CHN bulletin, the Old Massett Village Council emergency operations centre (EOC) announced it was considering setting a curfew “to assist with the safety of the community.”
The OMVC recommended that the EOC enact a curfew for Old Massett and Tlaga Gaw Tlaas, or New Town, from 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day, to be reviewed biweekly.
Both updates followed a day of rumours circulating on the islands that there may be a case of COVID-19 locally, including a now-deleted post that was shared from the Skidegate Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page.
The department later apologized for the post, saying it was “intended to remind first responders that [they] respond to all calls assuming the individual(s) are sick to avoid exposure on [their] crew.”
“[The CHN] will release information once it has been fact-checked and been made public,” the new post said.
About seven hours before the bulletin reporting the case of COVID-19, the CHN had released another community bulletin that reminded residents to remain calm and take steps to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Testing and results are confidential,” the bulletin said. “If there is a confirmed case on Haida Gwaii, Northern Health … will notify anyone who has been in contact with that person.”
The CHN also hosted a live webinar at 7 p.m. on July 17 to update residents on community care and COVID-19 measures.
Commenting on the events of the day as a physician, Dr. Caroline Walker, chief of staff at the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital, said she was “disheartened to see this rumour about a COVID-19 case spreading and creating such panic.”
“This will make people fearful to get tested and backfire on managing a pandemic,” she wrote in a post on social media. “The fundamentals of public health are ‘test, trace and isolate’. If we encourage fear, then people will not be tested and public health cannot do its job.
“Please continue to be kind to each other and follow the basic public health advice to keep each other safe. If there is a confirmed case, public health will notify close contacts that are at risk. If the broader public is at risk and an outbreak is declared, this will be made public.”
Earlier on Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters there were three new confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the Northern Health region, involving people in separate communities. Two of the cases were connected to travel, Henry said, and an investigation by health officials is underway to do with the third.
Health officials do not release details for specific locations related to single cases unless it is deemed a cluster or an outbreak, citing privacy concerns.
The Observer has reached out to the CHN and OMVC for comment.
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