Whale Cove mayor urges calm as COVID-19 hits

·2 min read

Whale Cove mayor Percy Kabloona is trying to keep his tight-knit community together — while reminding people to stay apart.

"We're ... trying to recommend that the community should not panic," said Kabloona.

He learned on Monday that eight people in the 435-person hamlet in Nunavut have COVID-19.

"I was asked not to mention anything about it until ... the media [was told] the following day," he said.

Masks are now mandatory in public spaces in Whale Cove. And, like all of Nunavut, the hamlet is now under a two-week lockdown order to limit the spread of the virus. Non-essential businesses must close and people are being asked to work or study from home.

Kabloona says the community's bylaw officers and community rangers have come together to deliver food hampers to people while they stay at home. The hampers have been donated by a mining company that operates in the region.

Arviat acted quickly, says mayor

Joe Savikataaq Jr. is the mayor of the nearby hamlet of Arviat. Speaking to As It Happens on Monday, Savikataaq Jr. praised his community of 2,500 for how quickly it acted, wearing masks and staying at home, although he said some things make it difficult to take those precautions.

"Lots of people are very social up here. There are a lot of big families who interact with each other," Savikataaq said, adding there's a housing shortage in Nunavut.

"There are a lot of overcrowded homes where people are crammed in like sardines. That's another hurdle that we have to try and get over," he said.

On Wednesday, the community had 54 cases of COVID-19.

A post on the Hamlet of Arviat's Facebook page on Wednesday said the hamlet has purchased $500,000 worth of food and cleaning supplies from several local stores. The hamlet plans to find a safe way to distribute the items to every home in Arviat, unless community members inform the hamlet that they do not need it.

"All the stores are working very hard currently on placing orders and getting this shipment into Arviat," the post states.

Don't travel

Kabloona also reminded people in nearby communities like Arviat to stay home. The hamlets are about 150 kilometres from each other. Non-essential travel between communities is against the rules in Nunavut's new two-week lockdown imposed on Wednesday.

"As we all know, it's a short distance right to Rankin Inlet on snowmobile and it's possible that anybody can travel inland between Arviat and Whale Cove," said Kabloona. "I'd like to recommend that you do not do any travel, whether on land or air, to any other community."