Communities in the NWT’s Dehcho region are asking people not to visit after two Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Fort Simpson.
The village’s mayor, Sean Whelly, said in a Facebook post on Saturday he had confirmation of a positive case in the community. Only on Monday evening did the territorial government confirm Fort Simpson had two Covid-19 diagnoses.
“This should not be a surprise. I can’t tell you any more than that right now,” Whelly wrote in his post.
“I believe that everyone should be acting like Covid is here anyway, regardless of whether it is or not. Act accordingly. Be safe and follow common-sense CPHO advice,” he added, using the acronym for the chief public health officer.
Residents of smaller Dehcho communities rely on Fort Simpson for supplies and frequently visit family members in the village. As a result, some of those communities have begun discouraging travel – harking back to similar precautions taken when Fort Liard experienced a cluster of cases in January.
Jean Marie River, as in January, now has a sign on the road leading into the community asking visitors to stay out.
Chief Stanley Sanguez said the risk of the Delta variant must be taken seriously, especially after the territory lost an Elder to Covid-19 last week.
“This is really close to home that one of our Indigenous Elders passed away,” he said.
“It’ll probably create a problem if the Delta variant ever comes into our communities or Fort Simpson I think we’re in trouble because we don’t have the capacity here.”
Sanguez said anyone who believes their travel to Jean Marie River is essential should let the community know beforehand. Those who show up unannounced will be asked to leave.
The chief said a number of people remain at a camp just outside the community established after May’s flooding ruined local homes. People at the camp have now “self-isolated themselves,” he said.
“Myself and the band manager, we’re keeping an eye on the movement of our people to see if this thing is travelling,” Sanguez told Cabin Radio.
The Nahɂą Dehé Dene Band in Nahanni Butte said on Facebook no visitors were allowed until further notice and residents’ travel was “strongly discouraged … to protect the community of Nahanni Butte from the possible spread of Covid-19.”
Chief Steve Vital said Nahanni Butte’s isolation and lack of health centre meant “this kind of step was necessary.”
Residents of Nahanni Butte returning from leisure travel must email a negative Covid-19 test result to the band office and receive approval before re-entering the community, the First Nation said.