North

'We're told nothing': Questions still loom over Fort Resolution after its 1st COVID-19 case

Some residents of Fort Resolution, N.W.T., say they still have more questions than answers after it was revealed that a person who tested positive for COVID-19 landed in their community last week.

Community found out about case through a Facebook post, and not the N.W.T. government

A file photo of Fort Resolution in August 2019. Some residents say they still have more questions than answers after it was revealed that a person who tested positive for COVID-19 landed in their community last week. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Elder Robert Sayine found out about the first COVID-19 case in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., like everyone else — through a Facebook post from Deninu Kue Chief Louis Balsillie. 

It was significant: Fort Resolution, which has a population of about 532, was the first community outside of Yellowknife and Inuvik to see a resident test positive for COVID-19. 

It's been almost a week and Sayine said tensions are still high in Fort Resolution. 

"People are getting stressed out, especially old people like myself," Sayine said. "It's not normal for us. We can get sick of this kind of stuff."  

Some residents like Sayine say they still have more questions than answers after it was revealed that the territory's fourth COVID-19 patient landed in their community last week. 

Resident wants co-ordinated response

Resident Sharon Lafferty said she figured out there was a COVID-19 case in the community "immediately" after walking past the nursing station and noticing no one there late last week. People were quick to react, she said.

Robert Sayine said people are stressed out after the first positive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Fort Resolution last week. (CBC)

"People were casting stones," Lafferty said. "[The patient] could have infected all of us." 

The next day, local leadership set up a checkpoint to limit entry into the community. Chief Balsillie told CBC that 47 people passed through that first day.

Still, Lafferty said she gets the sense that the effort to protect her community is not co-ordinated between different levels of leadership. 

"This is not a co-ordinated or combined, collective effort here," Lafferty said.

Lafferty said the patient's living quarters need to be looked after to make sure there is no contamination. 

'Quite frankly, we're told nothing': mayor

Patrick Simon, the hamlet's mayor, said he has heard many concerns from residents about how the territory handled this COVID-19 case. 

They told us 'you don't need to know, you're good.' Well my people don't believe that.- Mayor Patrick Simon

Simon said he met with the territorial government over the weekend, where officials doubled down on their decision to not name the patient.

Simon said not having access to information about the COVID-19 case has made his job "very difficult." 

"Quite frankly, we're told nothing," Simon said. "They told us 'you don't need to know, you're good.' Well my people don't believe that." 

Still, Simon said there are more pressing questions that remain unanswered. "We need to know what happened, what broke down and how we can fix that quickly," Simon said. 

Simon called for an investigation into this case in a letter addressed to Premier Caroline Cochrane on Monday afternoon. 

As of Tuesday, Simon said he had not heard from the territory as to whether they agreed to launch an investigation.

Workers in Fort Resolution supervise a check stop on the main road into the community, Highway 6. The driver of each vehicle is questioned and non-residents who aren't visiting family or providing services are asked to leave. (Deninu Kue First Nation/Facebook)

During a press conference Tuesday, Cochrane said she, too, as the premier, doesn't have access to information on who has COVID-19 and what community they're in. 

"I know leaders across the board are not happy with that," Cochrane said on Tuesday. "[But] I do not have access to the information."

'I just want these answers [to] let my people know'

The hamlet is asking the territorial government to review a list of concerns including: the gaps in enforcement policies that allowed the patient to come back into the community, how the medevac was conducted, the nurse's response, cleanup efforts and if there were additional people or pets in contact with this person.   

"I just want these answers [to] let my people know … calm down and feel assured that this is being handled in the proper way and there is no more danger here," Simon said. 

Simon said he wants to see more communication between the N.W.T. government and small communities so they can be better informed if there's another case.

Lafferty, Simon and Sayine are also urging residents of their town to follow the orders set out by the chief public health officer.

now