As it stands, Bowen Islanders are a ferry ride away from a COVID-19 test.
As the doctor’s office in Artisan Square stopped performing tests in September citing lack of space and courier service to bring the samples to the mainland in a timely manner, Vancouver Coastal Health directs islanders to the two testing facilities in North Vancouver.
The health authority has indicated to Bowen Island Municipality that there are no plans to open testing capacity on Bowen, said BIM’s emergency program coordinator Jennifer McGowan.
Kirsten Degner is one of the islanders voicing concern about the lack of COVID testing on Bowen.
“With the reopening of schools full time, our small little bubble that we would have to protect has now become gigantic,” said Degner. She travelled to the North Shore to bring a family member for a COVID-19 test last week and it took four hours to get through the lineup at the testing centre (the test turned out negative). The ferry commute adds at the very least an hour to the ordeal. “We’re expected to take people that are sick and potentially contagious onto the ferry sit with them in this vehicle for several hours,” said Degner.
“I think they need to make it easier on our community to get these tests done,” said Degner. “Or people just aren’t going to bother and or not going to bother until it’s too late.”
“We all want to be responsible community members and we all want to keep our community safe but our community is not making it very easy for us to do that.”
Municipal councillor Maureen Nicholson is bringing forward a resolution at the regular council meeting Oct. 13 to formally request a testing site on Bowen. Letters from the community in support of the resolution tell stories of front-line workers having to wait in line in North Vancouver for two hours for a test while feeling sick, of elderly people who don’t drive having no means of accessing testing without putting friends or family at risk.
While BC Ferries does COVID screening on its routes and asks people with COVID symptoms not to travel, it acknowledges that some passengers may need to travel while either symptomatic or unsure if they may have been COVID-positive, said BC Ferries’ Darin Guenette. Those passengers are advised to follow these guidelines:
- Travel by vehicle if possible, and remain in your vehicle
- Wear face coverings at all times
- Avoid unnecessary movements on vessel and in the terminals
- Ensure two-metre safe distancing is maintained from all employees and other customers
The two testing sites on the North Shore, as of Oct. 8, are Capilano Claim Centre at 255 Lloyd Ave., North Vancouver open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day (for ages four and up) and North Vancouver UPCC at 221 West Esplanade, Suite 200, 2nd floor, North Vancouver from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday (for all ages).
Vancouver Coastal Health bids symptomatic people to use the BC COVID-19 Self Assessment tool to see if they should seek testing.