June 26, 2020
CITIZEN UPDATE: Haida Gwaii COVID-19 Pandemic Response
Haida Gwaii is slowly emerging from a full lockdown and the Islands’ communities are in the early stages of adjusting to new COVID-19 safety protocols. There are unique conditions that apply on Haida Gwaii. We live on remote Islands with limited health resources. Our communities are tight-knit and rely on a handful of stores to provide for our needs, which results in a high degree of local interaction. There are also special risks in Haida communities that shape the development of CHN’s response to COVID-19. Many Haida live in multi-generational households that include Elders, and high-risk members of the population. It is important to recognize, in this context, that the Haida have suffered catastrophic losses in the past due to disease brought to Haida Gwaii by outsiders. It resulted in the loss of entire villages. The devastating impact of these historical epidemics is alive in the minds of Haida citizens and provides context for our cautious approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is uncertain how the COVID-19 pandemic will unfold over the coming months. We, like other isolated communities, have been generally following the guidelines set by the BC Restart Plan albeit in a stricter fashion, with additional safeguards in place than some other localities in the province. Together with the Islands’ community, we have implemented a three-week risk assessment and consultation period each time the province moves to a new phase of its plan. The purpose of the risk assessment is to assess the practical impact of the new phase, in consultation with the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health Authority, community health directors, local doctors, and leadership from both Haida and non-Haida communities on Haida Gwaii. We assess all available information and modelling to develop each step in Haida Gwaii’s ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery plan.
Currently, Haida Gwaii is in a state that roughly corresponds with phase two of the BC Restart Plan; we allow essential travel only. On June 24, BC announced that it would move to phase three of its plan, which permits non-essential travel and the opening of resorts and lodges. Consistent with our approach, CHN has commenced the three-week risk assessment and consultation period to review the application of similar changes to Haida Gwaii. We are working closely with local communities and health officials to develop the next phase specifically tailored to Haida Gwaii. Our process is transparent and applies equally throughout the Islands. On the basis of the outcomes of our risk assessment and consultation, we will make a determination whether, or the extent to which, changes will be made to the Haida Gwaii State of Emergency, and we will issue a formal statement about the next phase of our plan.
Until then, Haida Gwaii will remain closed to visitors.