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Here's how 3 N.W.T. communities are preparing for COVID-19

As news of cancellations continues to spread across the N.W.T., local leadership in South Slave and Dehcho communities have been preparing response plans.

3 communities of different sizes showcase their response plans

Lloyd Chicot, chief of Kakisa, says people are going door-to-door handing out pamphlets and information on coronavirus. (Jimmy Thomson/CBC)

As news of cancellations continue to spread across the N.W.T., local leadership in South Slave and Dehcho communities have been preparing response plans for the novel coronavirus. 

Here's how three communities of varying sizes are stepping up their response to COVID-19. 

There were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the N.W.T. as of Wednesday, according to the territory's chief public health officer. 

Kakisa 

Lloyd Chicot, the chief of Kakisa, said his community has already started responding to concerns from residents about COVID-19. 

"There's a lot of fear in the community," Chicot said. 

Statistics Canada recorded 36 people in the small settlement of Kakisa in their 2016 census. Now, said Chicot, the community is home to roughly 55 to 60 people. 

Residents have been going door-to-door with pamphlets on best hand washing practices and information on the virus, including possible symptoms, Chicot said.  

He said he is worried about the transient nature of his town. People come and go so frequently that it's hard to keep track of who is in the community at any one time and where they are from, he said. 

There's still people travelling ... and that's the scary part.- Lloyd Chicot, Chief of Kakisa

Chicot said limiting the entry or exit of people from Kakisa would be difficult.

Residents travel to Fort Providence or Hay River for medications, groceries or appointments. 

Chicot said any sick residents will have to go to Hay River to get care because there are no nurses, medical staff or RCMP in Kakisa.

Staff at the local community office have been informed of what procedures to take in case someone gets sick. The office is also being sanitized regularly, Chicot said. 

Kakisa leadership will be meeting over the next two days to figure out some local solutions.

Fort Resolution

Patrick Simon, the mayor of Fort Resolution, N.W.T., said preparations for COVID-19 started last Wednesday as the hamlet's leadership found out cases were spreading across the country. 

That was the day the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic

"We thought if we got ahead of it, we could continue to stay on it and hope we could do our part in stemming the spread," Simon said.  

We decided to take a proactive approach, a cautionary approach ... as soon as we could.- Patrick Simon, Mayor of Fort Resolution

There are 532 people living in Fort Resolution, according to the NWT Bureau of Statistics 2019 population estimates. 

Hamlet leadership met with staff to create a list of responses to COVID-19, Simon said. It was also an opportunity to update the hamlet's emergency monitoring plan, which Simon said had a limited section on pandemics. 

The hamlet's administrative offices, the water treatment plant, the town hall and the local arena are restricted to staff only. 

The hamlet of Fort Resolution, N.W.T., has been preparing for coronavirus since March 11, the day when the WHO declared the virus a pandemic. (CBC)

Simon said he is hoping to meet with the hamlet's senior administrative officer, RCMP, nurse and the local district education authority for an update on how these bodies will be responding to COVID-19 in Fort Resolution. 

"We wanted to assure residents that every precaution is being taken," Simon said. 

The Deninu Ku'e First Nation from Fort Resolution had at least seven staff members that left the community for a meeting about the ongoing land claim negotiations, Simon said. These people and their families are currently in self-isolation in the community and monitoring their symptoms. 

Fort Simpson 

There are 1,250 people living in Fort Simpson, according to the NWT Bureau of Statistics 2019 population estimates.

Darrell White, the senior administrative officer for Fort Simpson, N.W.T., said he can already see changes in his village. 

Fort Simpson, N.W.T., is much quieter than normal. The town's facilities, including the recreation centre and fitness centre, are closed for the next two weeks. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Indoor activities in Fort Simpson's winter festival, the Beavertail Jamboree, were the first events to be shut down. 

On Monday, Fort Simpson closed down its recreation centre, fitness centre, library and village office for two weeks. Essential services, like water and sewage collection, are still running. 

This is a situation that is unlike anything we've ever experienced.- Darrell White, Senior administrative officer of Fort Simpson

Village employees are on staggered shifts, White said, which will minimize the risk of transmission between workers. It would also protect the village from a "massive" loss of employees if cases of COVID-19 were to come to the village.

"At the end of the day, I don't think it harms the community to be overly cautious," White said. "This is a situation that is unlike anything we've ever experienced." 

Fort Simpson lies at the junction of the Mackenzie and Liard Rivers, with a seasonal crossing to get in and out of the village. White said this gives the town an advantage when it comes to the pandemic.

"We are a community that's somewhat separated from other communities," White said. "There's less probability that people are in and out of Fort Simpson than they would be travelling in and out of Yellowknife." 

White said the situation is "fluid" and the village will continue to adapt their policies to match the most recent updates from the territorial government. 

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