Lance White is retired now. He has lived in Fort Liard for about 28 years. He hasn't spoken to anyone since the hamlet entered a containment order on Saturday, but he thinks the right steps are being taken.
Three people in Fort Liard have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since Friday. More cases are expected to follow. “It is what it is, so you just have to deal with it," White told Cabin Radio by phone on Sunday.
“You don’t see many people walking around at the best of times. I notice the utter silence, lack of vehicles driving about.
“But everybody, I would suggest, is taking this very seriously.”
Under Dr. Kami Kandola's containment order, gatherings are banned for two weeks in Fort Liard and non-essential businesses and facilitates must close.
Non-essential travel in and out of Fort Liard is “strongly discouraged,” the chief public health officer said, but not formally prohibited.
Everyone must wear masks in public indoor spaces unless an exception is granted.
Lucy Sanspariel works as a teaching assistant at Fort Liard's Echo Dene School, which has closed for the time being with students learning from home.
She described worrying about trips to get supplies.
“I have two small ones here with me so it’s kind-of scary for me to go out the door, but I have no choice. It’s kind-of hard to go to the store,” said Sanspariel.
She thinks more supports like grocery delivery may be needed in the community, especially for Elders and those who are the most vulnerable. Currently, curbside pickup is available.
Fort Liard resident Christine Abela thinks the GNWT has taken positive steps to keep her community safe since the cluster of infections began.
However, she worries about barriers preventing people from obtaining and understanding the public health information being distributed.
Abela says residents who are the most vulnerable – such as those who have limited internet access, no radio contact, low literacy rates and language barriers – may not be getting the information they need.
“I think that’s a little bit where the disconnect is,” she said.
As an example, Abela described circumstances in which people appeared unclear what was expected of them during isolation. Some 50 people have been asked to isolate by public health officials in a bid to contain what threatens to become an outbreak.
“If you’re leaving the health centre and you are unsure about what those instructions are for isolation, then that’s where I think the message is being lost,” Abela said.
“I do think, on a macro scale, things are being taken care of. But it seems there’s a lack of understanding by decision-makers … on what is necessary to convey that information.”
While word-of-mouth is usually important in the hamlet, rumours and misinformation are being spread, she said.
At the moment, the CBC's transmitter in Fort Liard is understood to be out of service. CKLB is broadcasting, while a community radio station on the 95.1 FM frequency recently reentered service. On Sunday, the community station's staff were hoping to receive messages in South Slavey to broadcast locally.
Asked on Sunday what steps the territorial government was taking to ensure clear, easily understood information was being provided, Premier Caroline Cochrane said radio, the news media, social media and posters were at the heart of her government's strategy.
Minister Shane Thompson, the MLA for Nahendeh, said his office was working with local leadership to answer questions residents may have and share information, both on Facebook and in person.
He urged residents to use 8-1-1, the COVID-19 hotline, as a resource.
There remain no public exposure advisories related to the three Fort Liard cases.
Dr. Kandola said on Sunday there appeared to be no exposure risk in public places along the first patient’s travel route from Hay River, where they had been isolating before returning to Fort Liard.
Vaccinations are set to take place in the hamlet on Thursday and Friday this week, a scheduled that remains unchanged.
Territorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg said only inclement weather would stop those vaccination dates going ahead.
Anyone isolating in Fort Liard this week must wait for the vaccination team to return. Pegg said her team would try to ensure that happens sooner than currently scheduled so a second opportunity can be provided.
Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio