With 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a community of roughly 1,500, BC Emergency Health Services has deployed a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to Fort St. James Wednesday, Dec. 9.
The specialized team, based out of Vancouver, will support local paramedics and patients in the community and was developed as part of BC EHS’s COVID-19 pandemic response efforts. This is the first time the team has been deployed, a BC EHS spokesperson said.
The secondary role of the team will be to provide clinical site support at Stuart Lake General Hospital as requested by the Northern Health Authority and local health professionals.
“A highly-trained paramedic team is the ideal response to this small community with 60 plus COVID-19 positive patients and where there is only a small acute care facility,” the BC EHS spokesperson said.
“We are also there to support our own paramedic staff who have been on the front lines responsing to extremely high call volumes: 33 calls in six days.”
The team will be made up of two critical care paramedics, one advanced care paramedic and a primary care paramedic, BC EHS said, and will be deployed for two to a maximum of four days, depending on the situation. If needed, a secondary relief team will be deployed to relieve the initial paramedics.
“Critical Care Paramedics are the highest level of paramedic with a focus on air medical response,” the BC EHS spokesperson said.
The community of Fort St. James, located roughly 160 kilometres west of Prince George, and the surrounding region has seen a rising number of exposures and positive cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks.
School District 91’s (Nechako Lakes) David Hoy elementary in Fort St. James reported a positive COVID-19 case on Nov. 30, Dec. 1.
At Fort St. James Secondary School, an exposure was reported from Nov. 20-26, and at the independent Nak’albun Elementary School another COVID-19 exposure was reported from Nov. 22-25.
Both School District 91 schools remain open. A letter, meanwhile, was sent home to parents on Dec. 7 from Northern Health stating the risk of additional COVID-19 cases was low.
On Dec. 4, Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief Aileen Prince issued a two-week shutdown of the Indigenous community, located adjacent to Fort St. James.
“It’s time to get serious,” Prince said in a video posted on Facebook. “Please. It’s the only way we can get a handle on this … We cannot afford to risk more of our people.”
On Dec. 1, Northern Health also issued a notice of a potential exposure to COVID-19 at The Key Resource Centre and The Cold Weather Shelter in Fort St. James between Nov. 12-25.