Take care of each other, Norman Wells resident reminds community amid COVID-19 outbreak

·3 min read
Town office in Norman Wells, N.W.T, in October 2018. The community has been quiet since people started testing positive, said one resident, but the town's mayor told CBC News some people aren't taking the situation seriously enough. (Katie Toth/CBC - image credit)
Town office in Norman Wells, N.W.T, in October 2018. The community has been quiet since people started testing positive, said one resident, but the town's mayor told CBC News some people aren't taking the situation seriously enough. (Katie Toth/CBC - image credit)

Take care of yourselves and each other.

It's a lesson Dora Grandjambe has been teaching young people in the community of Norman Wells, N.W.T., since school began a few days ago — but she said it applies to everyone, in the midst of an outbreak of COVID-19.

Public health officials said there were 25 active cases in the community as of Thursday and a total of 51 cases since the Sahtu region outbreak began in mid-August. They also confirmed community transmission in the town of 800 people for the first time and said waste water testing has revealed "many unidentified cases."

Grandjambe, an Indigenous languages educator, began teaching virtually for the first time on Wednesday. She said the community has become "very quiet" since people started testing positive for the virus.

Submitted by Dora Grandjambe
Submitted by Dora Grandjambe

The stillness is a particularly hard thing to deal with, she said, in the month of September.

Grandjambe said walking to the grocery store in "total silence" on Thursday, "not seeing any children, not hearing any laughter, not seeing anyone around" brought back memories of, at four years old, being taken away to a residential school.

"This is the month when all of us, as children, as survivors, this is a month a lot of us had a hard time with or still have a hard time with, and not truly understanding why your heart feels sad."

That's one of the reasons she's reminding people to be mindful and caring of both themselves and others. She has 58 students this year, ranging from grade 1 up to high school, and plans to call each and every one of them.

"Just to check in on them," she said.

Alcohol sales restricted

The Town of Norman Wells announced restrictions to the sale of alcohol on Friday to try and curb the spread of COVID-19.

An amendment to the territory's liquor act, signed Sept. 2, says vendors are not allowed to sell more than $200-worth — or six 375 ml containers of spirits — to one person in a 24-hour period.

"It might quiet the town a little bit," Frank Pope, the community's mayor, told CBC News.

"We do have issues with bootleggers, people from other communities coming in, looking for supplies that they can sell, and we are just hoping that we can impact that behaviour."

Most people 'accepting' of public health measures

Pope said most people, whether they like or not, have been "accepting" of public health measures. The community is under a containment order that was extended until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14, and a curfew starting at 12 a.m. until 6 a.m. each night.

An assortment of vehicles, including members of law enforcement, the government and the community, are doing evening patrols "making sure people aren't sneaking into town or having parties," said Pope.

"We don't think people are taking this quite as seriously as they should and we're keeping on top of it," he said. "Just these one or two individuals seem to be causing issues."

Pope said a vaccination clinic on Thursday was well attended, and that more people are being tested for COVID-19.

"Our big concern here is the evidence of community transmission," he said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting