Yellowknife Ski Club says its chalet will become a temporary isolation centre for people affected by the city’s growing Covid-19 outbreak.
Julie Green, the NWT’s health minister, said Yellowknife’s community arena will also be used – after being offered by the city – as an emergency shelter.
In a message to members, the ski club said its building would begin serving as an isolation centre on Wednesday and continue in that role until October 4. The chalet, which will be closed to members throughout, is now surrounded by red fencing.
Trails at the club remain accessible. In the absence of snow, the trails primarily function as an alternative dog-walking destination for Yellowknife residents, though some competitive skiers train outdoors in the area over the summer.
Territorial health agencies have been struggling to cope with an outbreak of Covid-19 among some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. That outbreak has so far seen the city’s downtown day shelter and sobering centre close due to lack of healthy staff, placed strain on existing isolation centres, and caused the health minister to suggest additional security is needed to address people who aren’t properly isolating.
On Monday, the chief public health officer issued a public health order “clarifying” isolation requirements for people in the Yellowknife area, emphasizing a fine or jail time could be imposed if people do not comply. On the same day, schools in Yellowknife were ordered to close until at least September 24. The territory said public health could no longer stay on top of new infections to the extent required to be sure transmission at schools would not occur.
Writing to members, the ski club said it was approached by the territorial government on Friday.
“The feeling was that the GNWT has lent its support to our club for years and here was an opportunity to do the same in return, at a time when the chalet is typically underutilized,” the club wrote in an unsigned message.
“As a club, we value the health and well-being of our community and are pleased to share what we have to help enhance that.”
The NWT government will pay to rent the facility and there will be “ground rules that the board feels will protect our club, our members, and our chalet,” the club told members.
Those rules focus on how the chalet is used and cleaned, how showers are provided, how damage is repaired, and how signage guides people at the site.
“This gives us the opportunity to help out with the situation,” said Shane Thompson, the minister for municipal and community affairs.
Thompson said using the ski club would move people farther from the hotels, where “challenges” had arisen.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many people both the chalet and the community arena would be able to serve.
The arena will fill a gap left by the closure of Yellowknife’s permanent day shelter on 50 Street. So many staff are either sick or isolating that the shelter has been closed since last Thursday.