U’mista Cultural Centre is closed to the public until further notice, as of Nov. 23, 2020. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

U’mista Cultural Centre is closed to the public until further notice, as of Nov. 23, 2020. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

U’mista closed until further notice due to new restrictions

North Island on high alert against COVID-19

U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay is closed until further notice as of Nov. 23 in response to new restrictions announced by B.C.’s Public Health Officer last week.

The centre will remain minimally staffed to process online gift shop sales, including no-contact pick up. It plans to re-open when provincial restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, its gift shop is fully online as well as a few virtual exhibits linked on the website at www.umista.ca.

The province had imposed restrictions in the Lower Mainland Nov. 7, restricting social gatherings to curb the increase in cases. Those restrictions have shown positive results, slowing the rate of community spread, which in part prompted Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry to expand the restrictions to the entire province Nov. 20.

The current restrictions are in place until Dec. 7, and could be extended beyond that if new infection rates do not sufficiently lower, Henry said.

Alert Bay had a major outbreak in the spring — 30 people tested positive in the island community of roughly 1,500 people. (The census reports 950 residents, but many locals point to the higher number.)

“It hopped over a lot of places to get to us,” said chief councillor of the ‘Namgis First Nation, Don Svanvik about the outbreak.

As of yet, this was the only publicized COVID-19 outbreak north of Campbell River, though the remote community of Zeballos is currently conducting contact tracing after a visitor tested positive last week.

READ MORE: 6 things you need to know about B.C.’s latest COVID-19 health orders

READ MORE: Latest COVID-19 restrictions starting to show results in B.C.

READ MORE: COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

The Sointula Museum on Malcolm Island has been open by appointment since Oct. 1, and plans to stay that way through the winter. Port McNeill’s museum is closed until further notice.

Port Hardy’s museum is still open on winter hours, though the number of visitors is limited and of course masks are required.

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