When the virus hits home: An Arviat MLA shares his experience of the pandemic

·3 min read

For John Main, COVID-19 really hit home.

Main is the MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove and in just over five weeks, Arviat, Nunavut, a hamlet with fewer than 3,000 people, has seen more cases of the illness than any other community in the territories: 217 as of Friday.

But the virus didn't just arrive at Main's doorstep, it pushed its way inside.

"My own household was impacted directly by COVID, having individuals who were positive in our household here," he told Loren McGinnis on CBC's The Trailbreaker.

Main said his home within the small hamlet is in a "pretty good situation" as far as shelter and food goes, "so we don't have those types of stresses to worry about, unlike many of my constituents."

But having the virus at home was "a bit of a roller coaster — some days are up, some days are down," and the ordeal was "scary at certain points."

Submitted by Dylan Clark
Submitted by Dylan Clark

"It really puts it on a different level once you know that it's in your household and that the fight against the virus has to continue, but it's within your own four walls."

Everyone in Main's home has since recovered, but the experience sharpened his view of COVID-19 in Arviat, and of the pandemic in general.

'Dealing with those challenges pretty well'

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Arviat on Nov. 13. Two days later there were nine cases in the hamlet, and health officials were seeing signs of community transmission. From there, the outbreak worsened rapidly.

But Arviat persevered.

Though residents are still in lockdown and under stress, said Main, they're "dealing with those challenges pretty well."

He credited local radio for becoming a de facto gathering place — "our coffee shop right now" — and somewhere to tune in for support.

Last weekend, Main expressed gratitude for what he was hearing on Arviaqpaluk radio in a series of tweets: Religious leaders were running services, singing songs and offering advice over the airwaves. A COVID-19 survivor shared her experience with the disease. A young parent thanked the hamlet for food hampers.

"For me, personally, that's also helped," he said.

Credit to his kids

Something else that's helped — his two young sons, ages three and five.

"Kids are so wonderful in that they live in the moment and they can really brighten up your day when you least expect it," Main said.

"I have to give a bit of credit to my kids for keeping me on the track of remembering what my responsibilities are. I'm not just a politician, I'm a dad," Main added. "Being a dad or being a parent doesn't go away, and so I think that's part of what helped us get through it, as well as the incredible community spirit that we've had throughout this."

With Christmas approaching, Main implored residents to keep celebrations small and to follow public health measures in their communities.

"Because you will not know, necessarily, right away when COVID, or if COVID, arrives in your community … It will spread first and then you will find out," he said.

"I'm not trying to spread fear for Christmas. I'm trying to spread caution and urge people to follow the public health restrictions in your community, because that's the way to keep the most people safe this Christmas."