The Liard Valley General Store is stocked up and able to handle the coming weeks as the territory moves to flatten its Covid-19 curve with severe restrictions on entry.
That’s according to Hillary Deneron, co-owner of the Fort Liard store. “We’re still pretty well-stocked,” she told Cabin Radio as Highway 7 was shut off entirely at the BC border.
The NWT government hopes the unprecedented move will keep smaller communities like Fort Liard safe from Covid-19.
In the harshest border control yet put in place, no passengers are allowed to enter the NWT via Highway 7 – not even residents, who must use Highway 1 via Alberta.
“We’re still going through Manitoulin [the trucking company] so we’re still going to be having our truck coming from the south,” said Deneron. Katrina Nokleby, the infrastructure minister, has promised the Dehcho’s supply lines won’t be interrupted by the highway closure.
The store was already stocking up before the NWT’s first Covid-19 case was confirmed on Saturday. “We’re not too worried or concerned,” Deneron continued.
Deneron, who is also the hamlet’s mayor, says news about the coronavirus pandemic is filtering back to Elders in the community through family, but Elders still visit the store on a daily basis as they don’t fully understand what is happening.
“The majority of our Elders don’t speak English,” she said. “All the news, the media, everything is in English. So they kind-of have an idea of what’s going on, but that’s coming from family members informing them.”
The store, one of two selling food and supplies to the community, has put up signs and started telling people to stay home if they are ill.
“Even for the kids,” said Deneron. “Now that there’s no school, all these kids are out and about. All their recreation programs have been cancelled.
“We try to avoid having five or six kids come into the store, because they like to touch everything.”
Regular disinfecting is taking place. Only one person can be at the till at a time.
Soy sauce destination of choice
Keeping food on the store’s shelves has been pretty easy, said Deneron, despite the hoarding seen in larger centres.
“I think a lot of it really had to do with social media and the media [reporting on] hoarding,” she said. “There was absolutely no necessary call for all of that, like the toilet paper, the pastas, rice, and some of the essential items like that.
“I think people just saw that this is what was happening on the news and [thought] that’s what we need to do. But we just said, hey, there’s no need for this unless you are going out on the land.
“We do have a lot of community members that are able to go out on the land and they are going out,” she added. “I know a couple families that are going out for a month just to be safe.”
In fact, the general store in Fort Liard may be in better shape than many others, Deneron thinks.
“There was a girl, she’s from Liard but lives in Grande Prairie. And she said, ‘Oh my God, I went to seven grocery stores in GP and I couldn’t find soy sauce,'” Deneron recalled.
“And we have a whole shelf of soy sauce here,” she chuckled. “China Lily to boot!”
Other services in Fort Liard
Elsewhere in the community, the Hamlet of Fort Liard has shut down all non-essential services. Deneron said the hamlet is only providing the likes of sewer, water, and garbage.
Acho Dene Koe Holdings shut its office on Monday, letting residents know heating and cardlock fuel sales will be handled at the Liard Fuel Centre gas station (open Monday to Friday 10am-noon and 4:30-7:30pm, then Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm).
And as school boards in Yellowknife start to set out plans for the coming weeks, schools in the Dehcho are preparing as well.
Echo Dene School in Fort Liard had homework packages prepared for students that could be picked up on Monday. Deneron hopes parents will help out during the extended break from the regular school schedule.
“Just talking to some of the parents, we hope they continue after their spring break,” she said. “This is your homework, and curfew, and all that kind of stuff.”
At the same time, Deneron has been asking Shane Thompson – a cabinet member and the Nahendeh MLA – how Elders in the community will be cared for during the pandemic.
“For the people who are doing this social distancing, self quarantine,” Deneron explained. “Who is going to look after them if they need something from the grocery store, or need medication picked up?
“That was my question to Shane. Whose responsibility is it to take care of them?”
The store is calling Elders and offering to drop off supplies they need.