A live webinar tonight (July 17) at 7 p.m. is expected to provide an update on community care and ongoing COVID-19 measures on Haida Gwaii, following a day of heightened concerns on the island about the novel coronavirus.
The webinar, which will be broadcast live via Zoom and on the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) Facebook page, will include community health nurses Shauna Smith and Heather Barnes, as well as guests from the First Nations Health Authority and Northern Health.
There will also be a chance to ask questions about COVID-19.
The webinar will follow a day of unconfirmed rumours circulating on the island 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 this afternoon, 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.
Shortly before the webinar was advertised, the CHN released a 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.”
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 social media post. “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 location details for specific locations related to single cases unless it is deemed a cluster or an outbreak, citing privacy concerns.
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