A memorial totem pole carved by Don Svanvik, Bert Svanvik, Sean Whonnock and Johnathan Henerson in 2004 stands in the original ‘Namgis burial grounds in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. (Zoë Ducklow)

Alert Bay tested for COVID-19 antibodies, results prove efforts were effective

Just 3.7 per cent of people tested have the antibody

Preliminary test results from COVID-19 antibody testing in Alert Bay are in, and they’re positive.

Around 60 per cent of eligible people came to get tested, and just 3.7 per cent of them had the antibody present, indicating they had had COVID-19 and fought it off. Most of those were people known to have had COVID-19 and their close contacts.

The low number of positive antibody tests indicates that isolation measures taken on Cormorant Island during the outbreak were successful. Elected and hereditary chief of the ‘Namgis First Nation, Don Svanvik, said he’s happy with the turnout of testees and with the results.

During the outbreak, which locals suspect was caused by a tourist, 30 people tested positive in the community that has a population of 1,500.

The village of Alert Bay, the ‘Namgis First Nation and the Whe-la-la-u Area Council initiated a lockdown where ferry traffic was restricted to those with essential business on the island. A 9:30 p.m. curfew was initiated, social gatherings were cancelled, health care workers undertook a massive contact tracing project, and people with symptoms self-isolated.

Their efforts have been widely seen as effective, and now the antibody tests confirm that Alert Bay’s outbreak did not turn into a community-wide transmission.

It also means 96.3 per cent of people who live on the Island do not have antibodies to COVID-19, and the small community is still at risk for the second-wave.

Tourism has gradually restarted since the lockdown was lifted. Any day will see small swarms of mask-wearing tourists disembark from the Island Aurora at Alert Bay’s ferry dock. Restaurants and attractions are mostly open, but with limited capacity and physical distancing measures in place.

The testing was requested by Svanvik and Alert Bay Mayor Dennis Buchanan, who had the disease, to give the community a chance to learn more about how they were affected. Many people chose to self-isolate without getting tested, and this was their opportunity to find out if they did get COVID-19.

RELATED: Alert Bay: COVID-19 cases go from 30 to zero thanks to health and emergency planning

RELATED: COVID-19 antibody testing underway on Cormorant Island

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca

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