The community of Fort Liard is in mandatory lockdown until the end of January to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
During a press conference Sunday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola says the 14-day containment order for the hamlet is because of a “small community cluster.”
Three cases have been identified and around 50 additional people who may have been exposed are self-isolating.
What the lockdown means
The lockdown means only essential businesses such as grocery stores and health centres will continue operating with a maximum capacity of nine customers at any time.
No gatherings, indoor or outdoor, are permitted and school is moved to online learning.
Grocery delivery and curbside pickup will be available in the community.
Dr. Kandola said the first case is linked to travel. She added that it may also be linked the positive case found in Hay River’s wastewater as the individual was isolating in Hay River before traveling on to Fort Liard.
When asked whether there is risk to other communities, Dr. Kandola said anyone who may have been exposed from any community has been notified.
Few details were given on the viruses suspected spread, but Dr. Kandola says there is no risk of public exposure.
Dr. AnneMarrie Pegg, the territory’s medical director, says a rapid response team has been sent to Fort Liard to perform contact tracing.
She adds there are still plans to send a vaccination team to Fort Liard on Thursday.
Health Minister Julie Green called into the press conference by phone.
“I want to acknowledge that our territory is navigating more uncertainty than we have had to date during this pandemic,” she says, “that anxiety is natural.”
Premier Caroline Cochrane also acknowledged the severity, but reassured residents of Fort Liard that the territory is prepared to handle the situation.
“This is a difficult situation, and I know that the community of Fort Liard will be strong, supportive and resilient,” she said.
First Nation response
Soon after the first case was announced, Acho Dene Koe First Nation sent its own release saying it would support the territorial government and hamlet to respond to the case.
“At the beginning of the pandemic the Band provided the municipality $20,000 to help the Hamlet if such a case of cases were to arise and the Emergency Operation Centre was to be activated,” reads the release.
It adds, “We encourage everyone to remain calm, to minimize their contacts and to follow all instructions of the Public Health Authority.”
Hillary Deneron, the mayor of Fort Liard, told residents through a Facebook post to, “Please be safe, be kind to one another and make sure family members are in contact with our elders to help inform and provide the proper care for them.”
The mysterious positive COVID-19 case confirmed in Yellowknife on Jan. 15, was also discussed at the press conference.
The individual who tested positive had not traveled outside the territory and no possible contacts were identified.
A rapid response team has been sent to Aven Manor, a Yellowknife seniors care home, to investigated the case.
However, Dr. Kandola says there’s no ongoing risk to residents or staff, but that the department is following possible leads.