'I never left the island': B.C. mayor says traveller brought COVID-19 to remote Alert Bay
Published Tuesday, April 14, 2020 10:47AM PDT Last Updated Tuesday, April 14, 2020 4:01PM PDT
VICTORIA -- The mayor of a remote village off British Columbia’s central coast says he’s living proof that someone has ignored the warnings of the province’s health authorities and brought the novel coronavirus to the secluded island.
Alert Bay Mayor Dennis Buchanan says that despite not leaving Cormorant Island during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been stricken by the disease. In a video statement posted online, Buchanan puts the blame for his illness squarely on travellers.
"I did everything I was supposed to," Buchanan says in the video posted to the island’s emergency preparedness Facebook group Monday. "I washed my hands, I did my safe distancing, I never left the island. I have contracted the COVID-19 because somebody has seen fit to bring it to this island."
The village of Alert Bay is connected to Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island by a 45-minute ferry ride and has a population of 489 people, according to the 2016 census.
"We have been telling people, 'Do not travel, stay home,'" Buchanan says. "Well, now folks it is here and you may as well get used to that fact. People have to start listening. This is serious stuff and if people continue to travel on their own because the rules don’t apply to them, it is going to hit you and it is going to hit you hard."
The mayor says he has lost nine pounds since contracting the virus, adding "if my daughter had not talked me into going to the hospital, I may not be here right now."
The mayor’s statement comes as thousands of residents of Vancouver Island and B.C.’s Gulf Islands continue to call for tougher travel restrictions between the islands and the B.C. mainland during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Canada’s transportation ministry prohibited commercial marine vessels with a capacity greater than 12 passengers from operating for non-essential reasons, such as tourism or recreation, until at least June 30.
BC Ferries simultaneously asked passengers to avoid all non-essential ferry travel and reduced its sailings and passenger capacity by 50 per cent. The ferry service also began screening passengers for symptoms of COVID-19 before boarding, in accordance with the new guidelines from Transport Canada.
The Alert Bay mayor calls his coronavirus diagnosis a wake-up call for those who are still skirting travel restrictions.
"I have lost so much fluid out of my body that they had difficulty getting enough blood to test it," Buchanan says. "Wake up, people. It is serious stuff. So please, please take precautions: wash your hands, do not touch your face. Stay home and do not travel."
As of Monday, there were 1,490 cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia and 69 deaths attributed to the disease.