FILE - Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace was designated as one of B.C.’s prime COVID-19 treatment facilities in the early days of the pandemic. Health officials confirmed early this week that people on Haida Gwaii who test positive for the virus would be supported in relocating to accommodation on the mainland if they want to self-isolate closer to a major hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)

Haida Gwaii COVID cases may be flown to mainland: health officials

Community health nurse says ‘there were a lot of swabs’ over the weekend

People on Haida Gwaii who test positive for COVID-19 may be flown to the mainland as a proactive measure, health officials have confirmed.

Speaking during a virtual public meeting on July 27, hosted by the Old Massett emergency operations centre (EOC), community health nurse Shauna Smith said individuals on the islands who have been infected with the novel coronavirus may be transported to a hotel closer to a major hospital, such as the Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.

While self-isolating at a hotel, Smith said they would be “followed very closely by Northern Health.”

“Then we wouldn’t have to worry about that whole medivac situation,” she said. “If our weather was bad and they couldn’t get the person out.”

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) told the Observer the scenario described by Smith would result in no cost to the patient, as part of supports offered in collaboration with the Northern Health Authority (NHA).

“If individuals (in consultation with the physician team) feel it would be safer to self-isolate closer to a major hospital as there may be risks for complications, FNHA and NHA would support the relocation and care for individual to do so,” an FNHA spokesperson said. “The costs for the accommodation, meals and care are covered as part of the collaborative supports between FNHA and NHA.”

ALSO READ: COVID-19 outbreak on Haida Gwaii grows to 14 confirmed cases

Also during the Monday meeting, Smith encouraged residents to follow preventative measures to stop the spread of the virus and get tested if they are symptomatic, “so that we can see what our true numbers are here on Haida Gwaii” since a community outbreak was declared on July 24.

Preventative measures include washing hands, physical distancing and wearing face masks, among others detailed on the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website.

“What we have learned from our first cases is that they were passed on, what it seems like, is from close contact to close contact, so through our spit … being in each other’s airspace,” Smith said.

Even if an individual has mild symptoms, they should call the Northern Health COVID-19 Online Clinic and Info Line at 1-844-645-7811.

According to the BCCDC, symptoms include fever, chills, cough or worsening of chronic cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense of smell or taste, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and muscle aches.

“Sometimes it does take a little time to get through to someone on the line and you might have to wait, however, it’s worth your time if you have to wait,” Smith said.

Callers should have their B.C. Care Card ready as well as their date of birth and legal name, and if they qualify for a COVID-19 test, they will be called for an appointment.

Smith said people attending the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital for testing were being asked to drive through the emergency bay. There, a public health nurse in personal protective equipment has been meeting people outside, doing swabs through vehicle windows.

If someone who does not have access to a vehicle requires a test, EOC staff said they can call 250-626-7293 for assistance.

ALSO READ: Top doc says more COVID-19 testing sites considered amid Haida Gwaii outbreak

“We’re getting results back pretty quickly,” Smith said.

She also said “there were a lot of swabs” over the weekend because “a lot of people were having some mild symptoms of COVID.”

“There are lots of ‘negatives’ coming through,” she said. “We’ve had lots of people self-disclose that their tests are negative.”

A Council of the Haida Nation press release on July 9 said there were only two ventilators on the islands.

As of July 27, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on Haida Gwaii was 14.

ALSO READ: COVID-19: Haida Gwaii grocery stores tighten restrictions

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