Travellers, please keep to yourselves – that’s the message from Boundary doctors to anyone returning to the region from or via Vancouver, Calgary and Washington State, as COVID-19 infections continue to climb across North America.
While some cottagers may be looking to return to their properties in areas like Christina Lake, doctors say that now is not the time to open up for spring time.
“It seems like we’re small and somewhat isolated and that would protect us somewhat,” said Dr. Robert Sebastian, but people coming from outside the community can pose a “risk factor,” he said, amplifying what could be “an extra burden on a facility with limited resources [the Boundary Regional Hospital].”
While the hospital and the local medical landscape has “good human resources” that are able to handle mild to moderate COVID-19 cases, Sebastian said, physical resources get tight as things more more severe. According to Sebastian, the local hospital has one ventilator (device used in some severe COVID-19 cases), which doctors use to stabilize patients in the Boundary before transferring them to Trail or Kelowna.
In the midst of a pandemic, though, both those hospitals will have less availability too.
As far as local cases go, Sebastian said that Boundary doctors have seen “no serious COVID-19 cases,” as of March 23.
To lessen the threat and the burden on the Boundary health care system, Sebastian wants to see inter-regional travel restricted as much as possible. Canada and the U.S. closed its land border to non-essential travellers on March 21, and other rural communities in Canada have made similar pushes to lockdown their communities.
The Northwest Territories have shut down highways from Alberta, First Nations are clamping down on through-reserve travel and Hornby Island, an island north of Parksville, has even taken out Instagram ads asking travellers to please not visit.
For those who live in community, Sebastian said, abide by social distancing (six feet apart from others at all times) and cut your interactions with others down to what’s essential. The doctor said that the virus is more than likely in the Boundary already and residents need to adjust their lives accordingly. Cases were confirmed in Castlegar on Monday as well.
A plea to snowbirds
“We beg of you, snowbirds – you are high-risk – please self isolate,” Sebastian said to all wintering travellers returning to the Boundary.
Airports such as Vancouver and Seattle are common and easy spots for the virus to spread, he said. Even stopping for gas or groceries in Washington is a risk, Sebastian said, given that state has seen one of the biggest viral spreads in the U.S. As such, immediately upon returning home, people need to sequester themselves from the community for 14 days.
No going to get groceries, (“Send your family,” the doctor said), no welcome-home hugs and no social gatherings – all in order to protect oneself and the community.