Kandis Jameson, the mayor of Hay River, says residents continuing to ignore physical distancing advice during the coronavirus pandemic must change their ways, fast.
Speaking to community radio station CKHR, Jameson said the territory’s chief public health officer was making all the right moves but more enforcement needed to happen.
“People are not taking this as seriously as they should,” said Jameson in the interview, recorded late last week.
“They need to understand how important their role is. This is about family and friends, about Elders, about our neighbouring communities. But most importantly, it’s about protecting the healthcare system.
“Heart attacks, strokes, appendicitis, that kind of thing? They don’t stop for a pandemic. So we need to ensure that we are all protected.”
Hay River is among the four NWT communities to which all returning residents are being sent for two weeks of mandatory self-isolation if they have been outside the territory.
The town is the closest large community to Highway 1, which carries road traffic north into the NWT from Alberta.
“We need to enhance a sense of urgency in order to control the spread of this for our community and for the Northwest Territories,” said Jameson.
“Hay River is a very transient community. We have people coming in for work, we have people coming in for groceries … Fort Resolution, Kakisa, Enterprise, we are all one.
“And the virus is a slippery one and it is passed very easily and very quickly. I can’t stress how important it is to to follow these recommendations.”
‘Seriously disappointed’ in enforcement
Saying she believes “it is not a matter of if this virus is coming, but when,” Jameson – speaking just before the NWT declared a state of emergency – said she hoped the territorial government would do more to enforce restrictions already in place.
On Saturday, the territory said it was investigating the case of a man who publicly refused to self-isolate in Hay River while trying to return to his Dehcho cabin from British Columbia. There are no reports of anyone yet being formally charged with disobeying restrictions related to entering the NWT and mandatory self-isolation.
“Compliance with self-isolation is another concern,” Jameson told CKHR.
“Our chief public health officer has ordered this but … we’re having problems with enforcing her order. I’m seriously disappointed in the GNWT’s response to support her efforts.
“Dr Kandola is doing a great job and I’m going to take this opportunity to thank her for all her efforts and what she’s doing. The order she has placed, with $10,000 or six months in jail [the penalty for disobeying the restrictions], shows how serious she is about this and how important it is to make this happen.
“Those are my concerns as well as our community. So understand that I’m on them, and I am fighting with everything I’ve got to ensure that this happens sooner rather than later.”
CKHR’s Mark Lundbek contributed reporting.