Organizing A Collective Response To COVID-19

At the first virtual Community Conference, Cortes Island organizations and businesses described their preparations for the impending COVID 19 pandemic. The process of reporting continued into the second conference, where callers also discussed off-island travel. At the third, on March 27, 2020, callers were divided into ten break out groups as Cortes organises a collective response to COVID -19. 

The Community Conferences

This was the third call-in event in five days. At its peak, there were 39 computers and phones connecting to the ZOOM conference room. Some people found the pace exhausting. A few dropped put; new faces replaced them. 

While Regional Director Noba Anderson organized these meetings, she was primarily a facilitator. Various businesses and organizations described their experiences and perceptions. Anderson listened, and asked questions. The extent to which she is actually in the driver’s seat is revealed by the fact that the next call-in event, on Tuesday, March 31st, will be a virtual community meeting open to everyone on Cortes Island.

Break-out Groups

Much of the third conference was devoted to break-out groups, focusing on specific topics. After 45 minutes, Director Anderson asked that someone from each group describe what they need from the community and how they intend to proceed. 

The ‘Prioritizing Available Resources Group’ identified three areas where they thought there is a need for resources:

  1. Food security
  2. Expansion of our health care facilities
  3. A more efficient way to match and connect human and financial resources to projects and work on our island

Some of the conversations that started prior to the breakout session went forward in this group

Community Investment Co-op

A spokesperson for the Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA) outlined proposals for a Community Investment Co-op and a sister investment fund to finance some of the initiatives being discussed. 

“We are also looking into a Cortes Island currency, but that is a longer term project, In the short term we want to hear about your projects, initiatives and ideas that contribute to our community resiliency or economic development.” 

Subsidies For Small Businesses

The Federal Government recently announced “an up to 75 per cent wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020.”

Bill Dougan, Manager of the Gorge Marina, pointed out while this means he would only be paying for one out of four workers, “the season is not going to be what it was planned out to be.” So why not use this funding to employ people on projects that benefit the community rather than a single business? 

“The community wins and people still get jobs for the season.”

To which Adam McKenty, from CCEDA, responded, “It would be great to talk to you about that. This is something we have discussed as an approach to making this the most resilient building situation that it could be.”

“That would be for any business that didn’t actually need those funds for basic core operations,” added Anderson. 

“Correct, and Gorge Harbour is in that position, but I think all businesses should be,” said Dougan. “We can employ four people and only have to pay one of them. What do you do with these other three people? There is a lot of good they could be used for.” 

Anonymous Donations

“There are quite a few people on the island looking for ways to help the less fortunate and particularly those whose employment has evaporated. I’m concerned that people are reluctant to accept what is called charity. I’m wondering if we can come up with a way to make these donations anonymous and create some kind of umbrella that would look for people in need,” said Andy Vine. 

Spaces For Self Quarantine

The ‘Spaces for Self Quarantine group’ would like to have five designated locations prepared. 

Some key questions: “Who oversees it? Individual property owners? Where do they find guidance? Will there be a charge? (Hydro, internet, heat, water, cleaning, etc) — What would be the bare minimum cost and would there be funds available to cover it?” 

Jeanne Menge, the spokesperson for this group said, “It would be wise to have a group of five people, who know what they are doing, to go in and clean after a quarantine.”

Community Kitchens

A proposal to set up a community kitchen, in Mansons Hall or Linnaea Farm, is being submitted to Island Health. They are also researching the best packaging method for delivering food to homes. 

Bill Dougan offered the Floathouse Restaurant, which already has a restaurant license, as another potential community kitchen. 

Meeting The Needs Of House Bound Citizens

Over the course of the next week, RN’s from the Health Clinic and the  Community paramedic will be phoning members of the community to identify needs and direct people to available programs. Seniors Helping Seniors’ newsletter is introducing a phone check volunteer network. The Augmented Home Support program is recruiting volunteers. 

“We are also thinking about technological help, in terms of maybe a help desk to connect the people who need help with the people who can help them,” said Bernice McGowan.

Connecting People to Help

While some Cortesians are at home on the web, others do not have computers. Thus a two pronged approach is needed to communicate with the larger community.

 “ Obviously a few people will still slip through the cracks in terms of ability to use these things, or whether they have internet access. So part of what we were trying to sort out is the hot line approach, phone trees … in collaboration with an online platform,” said Mercedes Grant. 


In addition to the Tideline, there are a number of media resources available to Cortes residents who want to get their announcements and news items out

Cortes Radio, CKTZ 89.5 FM, broadcasts:

  • short public announcements (1 minute is the perfect length)  and local news items. (email: Roy @ or Howie @
  • The Cortes Currents news magazine is broadcast at 1 PM Saturdays and repeats at 5 PM Tuesday and 9 AM Wednesdays. (email: Roy @
  • Folk U has taken to the airwaves and is now broadcast Fridays at 1 PM

Cortes  – a web based news platform which publishes as stories become available.   – email Roy @; or De @

Folk U – for the People of Cortes – email

There are also several local journalists looking for Cortes stories:

Support For Children, Youth & Families

“Keep in mind the challenge of social distancing especially with young children, as they do not have that sense of physical space,” said Christine Robinson. 

The following people and organizations offer support: 

Supporting people’s mental health

A “Talk-In-Clinic” on Monday, Wednesday’s and Friday’s from 8-9am. Phone 250-935-0037 to participate.

Two possible ideas: 

  • Creating a mental health hotline- volunteer staffed with back up from Donna and other certified therapists as needed
  • a regular online children’s program for local little ones (not sure on technical format here). Storytelling, puppet show etc. 

Food resiliency 1:41

Cortes Island’s food resiliency group would like the island to grow enough food to feed itself, but its’ immediate goals are much more modest. There may be spaces for community gardens in Siskin lane, Trude’s in Whaletown and other properties across the island. 

Virtual Town Hall Meeting March 31, 2020

Everyone on Cortes Island is invited to a virtual community meeting at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. It is also being broadcast over Cortes Radio, 89.5 FM.

You may be prompted to download Zoom if you don’t already have it. You can also download in advance at You do not need a zoom account, but you will need a device with audio/microphone/camera and internet connection. OR CALL IN: +1 (778) 907-2071 and enter meeting ID: 519 645 378

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