FILE - A laboratory technical assistant at LifeLabs handles a specimen to be tested for COVID-19 in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. According to Northern Health interim chief medical health officer Dr. Jong Kim, more COVID-19 testing sites are being considered for Haida Gwaii after the declaration of a community outbreak on July 24. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck file)

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

Dr. Kim says capacity not yet an issue; officials working to ensure local resources not overwhelmed

Capacity has not yet become an issue since a community outbreak of the novel coronavirus was declared on Haida Gwaii, according to the interim chief medical health officer for Northern Health.

Dr. Jong Kim told the Observer on Sunday (July 26) that health officials had not yet seen a surge in emergency room visits since a community outbreak was declared on the islands on July 24.

“We haven’t had a case in hospital, so this is reassuring,” Kim said. “We’re hoping to maintain this.”

In the meantime, he said health officials were “working on ensuring there is sufficient capacity … and local resources are not overwhelmed.”

If there becomes a need for increased capacity, one option being considered is the addition of a new testing centre.

“We are looking closely at what’s needed,” he said, adding that Northern Health was coordinating community responses as well as medical supports with the First Nations Health Authority, Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) and municipal governments.

Kim advised anyone who becomes symptomatic to self-isolate and call their primary care provider or the Northern Health COVID-19 Online Clinic and Info Line at 1-844-645-7811.

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), testing is recommended for anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms. 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.

More information about COVID-19 testing is available on the BCCDC website.

ALSO READ: Community outbreak of COVID-19 confirmed on Haida Gwaii

Kim also said a floatplane contracted by the health authority has been making daily flights to Terrace where they do same-day processing of COVID-19 tests, for a total turnaround time of about 36 hours.

The BC Ambulance Service is available should anyone need to access acute COVID-19 care off-island.

“Remain vigilant … and continue to be kind to each other,” he said.

ALSO READ: ‘How will Haida Gwaii adapt?’: Third Haida Nation webinar focuses on local economy

A Northern Health bulletin on July 24 said contact tracing had confirmed 13 cases of the virus locally.

While the initial sources of transmission were still being investigated, the bulletin said all cases were believed to be local residents who had recently travelled off-island or had exposure to other residents who had recently travelled off-island.

One case had recovered and all active cases were reportedly self-isolating at home.

“There is no evidence at this time of wider community transmission,” the bulletin said.

Close contacts of any confirmed cases will be informed by public health officials and supported in actions they should take, such as self-monitoring or self-isolating.

ALSO READ: ‘Focus on prevention’: Haida Nation webinar emphasizes avoidance of a COVID-19 outbreak

During a webinar in April, Dr. Caroline Walker, chief of staff at the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital, said local hospitals did not have the resources required to deal with multiple, very-sick patients at the same time.

However, she said if there was provincial capacity in terms of ventilators and ICU beds, “we can cope with that.”

“We can deal with sick patients, we can put them on a ventilator, we can transfer them out,” she said. “We do that. That’s part of our job.”

A CHN press release on July 9 said there were only two ventilators on the islands.

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