Spread of COVID-19 slowing in North, MP Vidal helps with PPE delivery

Taken from: MeadowlakeNOW

The northern village of La Loche and Clearwater River Dene Nation are experiencing a power outage today on top of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic spreading in the community. But many are finding the silver lining that has come from further restrictions applied to slow the spread.

Clearwater River Chief Teddy Clark told meadowlakeNOW he continues to be amazed with the people of northern communities after liquor stores were closed on May 9. One of the biggest concerns community leaders initially had was the congregation of people around liquor facilities during the first phases of the outbreak, which posed a threat to the rest of the community.

“When we shut down the liquor establishments over a week ago, that has helped tremendously. We’ve had people respond to that quite well,” Clark said. “We were seeing numbers going up by nearly half but now after we’ve put a control in place, we’re seeing some days where few or no numbers at all are being reported.”

Clark said he sees a start difference in the community since the Manage Alcohol Program was implemented. The program focuses on individuals severely dependent on alcohol and provides them with controlled doses three times per day. He said some are already seeing improvements in their health and no longer feel an urge to drink alcohol. Clark said there are 50 people enrolled in the program.

“What are we going to do after this?” he said. “Once liquor stores open up, and eventually they will, we want to continue working with these people who are getting their lives back [on track].”

 Clark said some people in MAP are reportedly reuniting with family members and choosing healthy alternatives to cope with stress rather than relying on alcohol.

The homeless shelter is now at full capacity with 20 occupants. Clark said providing those without a home has also helped them focus on improving their lifestyle.

“These are people who never really had a home,” he said. “Some were chronic alcohol users before and once they’ve checked into the shelter, some have even sobered up and look very healthy.”

 With the surge of support the community is seeing from provincial and federal governments, some fear the support and positive outcomes may end after the pandemic subsides, Clark said.

“A lot of people who turn to alcohol and drugs, the reason that happens is because they have nothing to turn to, nothing to call home,” Clark said. “These are the people we need to look after.”

A new goal the chief has set with community leadership including La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre and Leonard Montgrand, council member with Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, is to find a way to keep this support going once the pandemic ends.

“If it wasn’t for a lot of the extra funding being injected into La Loche and Clearwater River, we probably would have never made this that successful,” he said.

Northern leaders are closely documenting the community’s response to emergency efforts and collecting data to put forward a proposal for ongoing support from the federal and provincial governments.

An anonymous donation

Gary Vidal, Member of Parliament for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River met the La Loche mayor at a checkpoint today delivering nearly 10,000 masks from an anonymous donor.

According to Vidal, a person from Toronto watching the outbreak unfold in La Loche, flew to Edmonton on Sunday morning and drove the masks to Vidal personally so he could get them up quickly to the community.

“There’s many things the pandemic can potentially teach us,” he said. “It forces us to take some actions and do some things differently than we might have thought we would do before the pandemic.”