Fifteen NWT government staff had volunteered for redeployment to isolation facilities as of Saturday morning, the territory’s finance minister said, as Yellowknife’s Covid-19 crisis escalated.
The city’s downtown day shelter and sobering centre have each closed due to a staff shortage as workers contract Covid-19 or isolate as a result of exposure to the virus. With the healthcare system already stretched, the GNWT said it was asking staff to redeploy to help both the shelter and isolation centres accommodating people without homes.
“I am overwhelmed at the goodness of people in this community,” finance minister Caroline Wawzonek said in a post to Facebook on Saturday evening.
“I learned this morning that after this call went out only yesterday afternoon, there are already 15 public servants who have come forward to assist specifically in the isolation facilities with the current outbreak among Yellowknife’s under-housed population.
“This is among almost 50 government employees who have recently volunteered to support the current Covid response through redeployment. And we’ve had a surge of people putting their names into the ‘casual pool’ from which these positions are also being filled.”
Wawzonek said Yellowknife’s most vulnerable residents “need our help now more than ever,” urging GNWT employees to consider redeployment and others to join the territorial government’s casual pool.
The minister said she understood that people “may have concerns about working in close contact with people who have tested positive for Covid-19,” adding the territory was working closely with its chief public health officer and the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission.
The exact nature of the training being provided to redeployed staff was not clear.
One former shelter worker earlier told Cabin Radio the hiring of inexperienced staff to work at a new isolation centre last month had caused difficulties and placed people at risk.