Canadian Rangers help Fort Albany deal with pandemic, chief asks people to stay home

·3 min read

Fort Albany chief is reminding people to stay home as the community deals with two active cases of COVID-19.

Last Thursday, the federal government approved Fort Albany’s request to have Canadian Rangers help the community deal with the pandemic.

For three days, about four or five rangers were delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to up to 184 homes. The PPE included adult and children masks, wipes, hand sanitizer, thermometer and informational packages.

As of Monday, the services of the Canadian Rangers are no longer needed, said Fort Albany Chief Robert Nakogee.

“The rangers are not there to do security stuff ... Then I ask what they can do exactly, so it was clear to me they could help with distribution,” he said.

The contact tracing of the two confirmed cases has been completed, and all 30 tests are negative, Nakogee said.

“Right now, we’re asking them to stay home for 14 days, so they keep isolating,” he said. “We all know the virus stays in the system for 14 days, so we just want people to stay home during this time.”

Not knowing who is affected has been a challenge for the small, remote community on the James Bay coast.

“What was frustrating we didn’t know the individuals, who the 30 people are unless they came out publicly and said, ‘I was the confirmed case,’ ‘My results came back negative,’” the chief said. “That’s why we were stressing for them to stay home because we don’t know who they are and ask the people to stay at home, relax at home and stay within their household.”

To prevent the spread of the virus, Fort Albany is in a two-week lockdown that ends Jan. 21. Regular charter flights have been cancelled and only essential workers or those with medical appointments are allowed to go in or out of the community.

Nakogee noted there was a charter flight on Jan. 9 that flew out with 29 people and also brought in some supplies. Those who left the community included students as well as people with medical reasons or family emergencies.

“Students need to get back to school, that’s from elementary all the way to university,” he explained. “People needed to go to school, that was the important part. Nobody came in … Internet is not the greatest here. Those are the things we’re hearing, too. People couldn’t go online to do their online classes.”

Fort Albany's chief and council will also be having discussions about bringing in teachers from out of the community who can’t fly in because of the lockdown.

The community is also mourning a loss of a 10-year-old child who died on Jan. 1. The loss affects four local families and they’re still waiting to hold a funeral, Nakogee said.

“We’re a small community, so we’re all related one way or another,” he said. “They’re still waiting for their isolation to be done, so they can start planning for the funeral. I just wanted to make sure we mention them, it’s really important that we’re thinking about them.”

Nakogee expressed thanks to community partners, Canadian Rangers, Weeneebayko Area Health Authority and Easing Community Restrictions group for their quick response.

“In Timmins, there are a lot of cases on the rise, and we have a lot of our members there, too,” chief said. “So, I just want to pass the message to stay safe out there and follow all health measures that are put in place for your protection.”

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,