[NB: this post was written jointly by all Haida Gwaii Physicians, to share their urgent concerns for the well-being of the people of Haida Gwaii]

As the COVID-19 virus draws closer to our islands, there are some important ways we can work together to reduce the impact on our communities.

If we let the virus spread the way it has in other places, we would expect well over 400 people here to be sick enough to need to be in hospital. We only have 12 acute care beds between the two hospitals, and most of these are already full. Over 20 people could become sick enough to need a ventilator (breathing machine), and we have only two of these on the islands. Also keep in mind that, as our health care resources get diverted to deal with those that get very sick, we will struggle to keep up with the usual health care emergencies (heart attacks, accidents, etc.). This pandemic has consequences for everybody’s health.

However, if we ALL work together, the numbers of people who may get seriously ill will be much less and will be spread out over a longer time. We will then be more able to help those who need it most.


This virus spreads wherever people come together, so the most important thing you can do is STAY AT HOME and limit visitors. If you must leave your home for work or essentials, keep your distance from others, ideally beyond 2 meters (6 feet). Wash your hands often and try not to touch your face (and wash your hands or use sanitizer after you do!). Please encourage friends and family to do the same.

1. If you develop a fever, cold symptoms or a cough, use the ONLINE SELF-ASSESSMENT TOOL or call the NH COVID-19 Hotline = 1-844-645-7811 to help you decide if you need medical attention.

2. If you need to see a doctor, CALL FIRST, so we can prepare for your visit and not keep you waiting where the virus can be spread to others.

SOUTH END of Haida Gwaii residents = 1-250-559-4900

NORTH END of Haida Gwaii residents = 1-250-626-4702

3. Stay calm and be kind, but do not minimize the seriousness of the situation. Encourage each other (and our elected politicians!) to do the right thing in a timely fashion, and support each other through this crisis – only together can we make a difference and save lives! 

We want you to know that all the health care staff of Haida Gwaii are here for you and continue to prepare the best they can for the challenges that lie ahead. We are working hard to adapt to this evolving situation, to get through this in the best way possible. We care deeply for you all and want the best for you and your families.

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  1. Haawa for the info you Sgaagas should get together write to Gwaai Trust for enough money for two
    More ventilators I can’t think of a better cause to spend that money on ask the gwaay trust how they would feel to be there judge of two ventilators. A lot more ventilators ten more would be good we would then have more ventilators get supporting letters from
    Both band councils and the CHN as us Haidas have the most people over 70. I was reading a artical from a paper the reporter said it got so busy and crazy that the first responders or caretaking workers started leaving the to old people to save younger stronger people.

    • Haawa for your comment! Having enough equipment is certainly very important, and a couple of extra ventilators would definitely be welcome. The bigger challenge, however, is having enough skilled providers to care for people on ventilators. They need ICU-level care which is very specilaized and not available on Haida Gwaii. We can only stabilize people while they wait to be transfered to a higher level of care (hopefully within 6-12 hrs). During a full blown pandemic, ICU beds get full quickly and may not be available to all who need them. This is why it is so important that we all take extra precautions now, to avoid a full blown pandemic on Haida Gwaii. I think we can do this if we all take this seriously, work together, and follow the directives.

  2. Thank you for the update and information. We appreciate the work you are all doing

  3. Thanks for the informative message. I will share it on emails to our Sandspit Seniors and Facebook.

  4. Thank-you for this information.

  5. Thank you Caroline Schooner… we all appreciate the excellent health care professionals on Haida Gwaii.

  6. Do whatever you can to protect your communities on HG. I am especially concerned about traveller’s to and from HG. I left Sandspit on March 12 and arrived in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island on March 15. There was discussion but not a lot of alarm about the virus in Sandspit when I left, but when I arrive on Vancouver Island, it hit me full face on, people not calm and relaxed as usual, but anxiety levels and shopping compulsion for supplies evident. Please do all you can to ensure the safety of your people and communities on Haida Gwaii.

  7. are there any IPPB or BIPAP machines available on island. i understand they can be used in an emergency if ventilators are not available.

    • Thank you Rose, we do have one BiPAP machine at Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay (Queen Charlotte) which as you say, can be adjusted to act as a ventilator, but as Dr. Shooner said, the machine is only part of the solution as the ICU-level care to support someone with severe disease on a ventilator is beyond what the providers on Haida Gwaii can provide. Of course we will do whatever we can as the situation demands, but the key will be to have the ICU’s off-island not overwhelmed (by everyone social distancing and ‘flattening the curve’) so when our residents need to get to an ICU bed they can.

    • We do have BiPAP, but the problem it is not safe to use for COVID infected patients. These machines work by forcing air into the lungs with a mask that cannot be perfectly sealed. As a result, the virus is sprayed into the air and is very likely to infect anyone who is caring for the patient. We might eventually end up with not enough skilled providers left to care for the sick COVID patients, or anyone else for that matter. Because of this, BiPAP and similar devices are not recommended.

  8. We were suppose to come back home to Haida Gwaii from Thailand on March 25th.
    Considering the risk of travelling (Bangkok/Tokyo/Vancouver/Sandspit, we decided to remain in Thailand with my wife’s family and keep taking care of her aging mother like we usually do when we are there.
    We felt the risk of contracting and to bring the COVID-19 back to Haida Gwaii to be much to high.
    I assure you folks that we would much rather come home. The hot rainy season will be starting soon and I’m not really looking forward to that unpleasant weather.
    I recommend you to establish infrastructure to help people stay home as much as possible, especially for the people quarantined!!! Also, any form of public or personal gathering should be discouraged, regardless of the number of people. Use the internet!
    Keep in mind that if you don’t get on to this to the max, its the elders that will get the brunt of it. And they are the ones staying home most!
    How’s the toilet paper supply? You know people here in Thailand don’t use toilet paper?
    Take care Haida Gwaii, be safe! Wash your hands a lot, and try not to touch your face!

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