Editorial: Believe it’s here and act accordingly

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On Salt Spring Island, people have wanted confirmation that someone living here is sick with COVID-19.

It is understandable to want “evidence” before accepting something is a fact and changing one’s behaviours accordingly.

But Island Health and the Lady Minto Hospital Medical Staff Association were clear soon after the start of the emergency that communities on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands where individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 would not be identified.

Clearly, if an outbreak occurred at a long-term care facility in the Island Health region, that place would be named, as has been the case at seniors residential facilities in the two Lower Mainland health regions.

However, the Lady Minto Hospital Medical Staff Association did state in its March 21 press release, “We do know that the coronavirus is in the Gulf Islands and as a result we need everyone to be taking measures to prevent transmission.”

That information was shared in last week’s issue of the Driftwood and the entire statement on our website on March 21. With or without testing, physicians know the virus is here because they have dealt with patients who are experiencing it.

“Even people with very mild symptoms may pass on this virus,” the association doctors stated. “It doesn’t serve anyone to think ‘it’s not in my community and won’t affect me.’ The precautions are for everybody in every community. The message is clear: for anyone who has not taken the calls to action seriously, it is not too late. You are being asked to take seriously your responsibility to your community and your loved ones.”

As of March 30, the Island Health region had 67 confirmed cases of COVID-19, among a total of 970 in the province. But all authorities state that many more people have the disease even if they have not been tested.

Between March 14 and 20 alone, an estimated one million Canadians returned home from time spent abroad. A number of people have recently returned to the Gulf Islands after vacations and longer periods of time spent out of the country. While community transmission is obviously occurring on a significant scale, the emphasis on the need for travellers to quarantine for 14 days has valid roots.

Now more than ever, we need to listen to our doctors: the virus is here and we must act accordingly.

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