Chief reminds people Seabird Island is still closed, after resident tested for COVID-19

Latest instance a reminder that ‘pandemic is not over yet’ says Chief Jim Harris

After a Seabird Island community member experienced flu-like symptoms and was tested for COVID-19, the community’s chief reminded residents about the continued closure of the nation to visitors.

Jim Harris, chief of the Seabird Island Band, informed community members on Monday (July 20) via the nation’s Facebook page that a community member had undergone testing yet it was unlikely there had been community exposure. “While privacy is protected, if you have been exposed you would know very quickly,” he stated. Harris added a result from the test would normally come in 24 hours.

In an update on July 21, Harris stated he understood the community’s concern about the “scare” the community had the day prior. He reminded members that the province’s contact tracing “is one of the strongest in North America.”

A protocol agreement is in place between the First Nations Health Authority and Fraser Health’s public health unit where a community’s chief is informed should someone test positive for COVID-19. “At this point, I have not been notified of any positive COVID-19 cases on Seabird Island,” Harris stated in a July 23 update.

Harris reminded people of the continued closure of the around 1,000 strong community to visitors, unless approved by Seabird Island leadership. Seabird is one of several First Nations from the Fraser Canyon into the Fraser Valley who have closed their doors to visitors since mid-March. Many nations posted closure notices, with some communities posting security guards at checkpoints at the entrance to their lands.

Read more: ‘Closed to the public’: Hope area First Nations brace for COVID-19

Pandemic ‘not over yet’ Harris reminds community

“This pandemic is not over yet,” Harris said in a July 21 video address to the community. He reminded people about the need to maintain physical distance and to only socialize within their own household ‘bubbles’ as B.C. moves into stage three of pandemic recovery.

“Don’t be afraid to wear a mask in public, when you’re out shopping or if you need to ride a transit bus,” Harris said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

In the video message, Harris acknowledged how difficult these restrictions have been on the community as it has prevented summer gatherings, sports events and meeting during times of mourning.

“The hardest part about not being allowed to gather is when we lose a family member,” he said. “We like to show our respect to the family that has lost someone by going to sit with the family, offering them help and support in any way we can.”

The Seabird Island band office, Harris wrote, has been following protocols including symptom checks for staff on a daily basis, reducing the amount of staff in the office at one time to 2 at a time as well as cleaning protocols and making sure staff work from home where possible.

The Hope Standard was unable to reach Chief Jim Harris for an interview as of publication time.

Read more: First case of COVID-19 reported on Haida Gwaii: Haida Nation

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