Kate Green, Island Health Public Health Nurse and Nicole James, Namgis Community Health Nurse stand in the personal protective equipment at the swabbing tent that had been set up in the Cormorant Island Community Health Centre parking lot. (Submitted)

Alert Bay: COVID-19 cases go from 30 to zero thanks to health and emergency planning

Dr. Cutfeet says community leadership set Alert Bay up for success

Thanks to the efforts of dedicated health care workers, the cases of COVID-19 on Cormorant Island went from 30 to zero over four weeks.

Cormorant Island, which has a community of around 1,200 people, was a hot spot last month when the coronavirus surged through, infecting 30 people. One woman, an elder with the ‘Namgis First Nation, passed away from the virus, but hers was the only fatality on the island.

How exactly did they contain the outbreak so quickly? Local physician Dr. Dan Cutfeet credits the exceptional preparation the ‘Namgis and the adjacent community of Alert Bay have prioritized for years.

“If it was any other community, it might not have gone as well,” he said.

Cormorant Island already had an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) set up, and EOC director Shannon Alfred had pandemic planning training long before it was needed.

“Isn’t that incredible? We were like, ‘What do we do next?’ She was like, ‘Well, we need to talk to this person and get this form,’ ” Cutfeet said.

Alfred’s knowledge was critical in the quick, efficient response. She helped coordinate efforts on the island, and access support from the province.

When the cluster was identified, the two ‘Namgis Health Centre nurses kicked into gear to trace outbreak sources and educate the town. Nicole James and Teliah Vollick knew what gatherings had occurred and who was involved, Cutfeet said, so they knew who to talk to.

“We’ve been here for so long, they know who we are. So there’s trust there,” Cutfeet said.

He described knocking on doors in full protective gear to test people and take their vitals.

“It was just really incredible how well everyone worked together and really did try to assist one another,” he added.

Vancouver Island Health Authority and the Mount Waddington Health Network (MWHW) also jumped in to help.

RELATED: COVID-19: As First Nation grapples with woman’s death, Alert Bay looks to ease restrictions

“They did not come in and try to lead things and push around, they came in saw that we were working, offered their support, and they just did such a good job supporting us,” Cutfeet said.

“There was definitely some intensity and panic. Even though there was was some real fear around the diagnosis and what this means, everyone just really wanted to get this right,” he said.

“There were volunteers, EMS people really working hard, plugging extra shifts and working all hours.”

Regional medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns came in to help coordinate and direct the work, along with her team of public health nurses and an epidemiologist to support the contact tracing. The MWHN sent administrative support to bolster the Cormorant Island EOC. They helped administer hospital transfers as well as finding housing and food for patients who needed to self-isolate.

CoronavirusHealthcareIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Telus representative Doug Anastos (top left) and SitePath Consulting Ltd.’s consultant Brian Gregg (top right) present to the SRD board, including CAO David Leitch (bottom left) and Cortes Island director Noba Anderson, on Jan. 13, 2021. Photo courtesy SRD/Youtube
Improved wireless connection for Quadra, Cortes pitched to SRD

Idea includes new towers at various locations on islands

Eva Xu (left) and Joanne Moon (right) presents Campbell River Hospital Foundation executive director Stacey Marsh (centre) with a $1,476 cheque to go towards the new mammography machine at the hospital. Photo supplied by Campbell River Hospital Foundation.
Gourmet Essentials donates nearly $1,500 to Hospital Foundation

Machine will cut wait times for mammogram results

Robbie Burns Day will be celebrated a little differently this year, but celebrated it will be as the Tidemark Theatre presents a live virtual celebration that will be available for ticketholders to view for three days. Black Press File Photo
Tidemark Theatre presents Burns Night 2021: The Bard & His Ballads

A tale of whisky and haggis, and of how Robbie Burns would emerge as a champion for the common man

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree planting life on Vancouver Island features in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

Bill Reekie and his then-four-year-old granddaughter Lily. Photo contributed
Alzheimer’s – the Unplanned Journey

By Jocelyn Reekie Special to the Mirror “January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month… Continue reading

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Inmates at Metchosin’s William Head Institution are being given COVID-19 vaccines as part of the first phase. Around 600 inmates will be vaccinated in the coming days. (Black Press Media file photo)
William Head prison inmates in receive first doses of COVID vaccine

Priority set for older inmates and those with underlying medical conditions

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

A water taxi at Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested after stolen water taxi raced up Victoria’s Gorge Waterway

Man is facing recommended charges of theft over $5,000 after leading police on marine chase

A mattress on fire gutted the second floor hallway at Town Park Apartments C-block Jan. 17. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue images)
‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months

A burning mattress created smoke and heat, causing several tenants to jump from windows

Most Read