Northern Alberta community limiting access in effort to keep COVID-19 out

The Chipewyan Prairie First Nation is ramping up efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 by hiring security guards to check every vehicle going in and out of Janvier, Alta. and stopping visitors from going in. 

The only people allowed to travel into Janvier, located about 120 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, are residents and people providing essential services to the community. 

Band Coun. Miranda Cardinal said she doesn’t want people in the community to panic. 

“I think we’re feeling pretty confident,” said Cardinal.

“We’re just taking precautions and we don’t want it [COVID-19] to come into the community.”

The community will still be letting in emergency responders, RCMP, the food bank and other people bringing in vital services. But visitors won’t be allowed in. 

Cardinal said security guards will also be asking residents where they are going and as well as doing a head count to make sure everyone who left is coming back.

The guards will take note if anyone couldn’t come back to the community right away. 

Cardinal said Janvier has a large, vulnerable population of elders, children and people with illnesses and they want to do everything in their power to protect them from COVID-19 infection. 

That’s also the reason the local nurse has gone to Fort McMurray to stockpile extra prescriptions for people who have health issues such as diabetes and asthma, Cardinal said. 

The Chipewyan Prairie First Nation is stationing guards to limit access to Janvier. (Chipewyan Prairie First Nation)

Cardinal added that leadership has sent hunters out on the land to gather food and leadership is making sure there is plenty of food and hygiene products for members.

And because kids aren’t in school right now and the youth centre closed, the band has been handing out care packages with protein bars and craft supplies to “make sure that the kids are not too bored and not roaming around.”

In a letter to community members, the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation asked all community members to self isolate. 

Candace Black says she’s impressed by leadership’s quick action to deal with COVID-19. (Submited by Candace Black)

Candace Black, a wellness co-ordinator with the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program in Janvier, said she was comforted when she heard leadership was limiting access to the community. 

“I think we’re really on top of things,” said Black. She added that leadership asked the health centre staff to make packages for people in case anyone has to go into quarantine. It includes a thermometer, Tylenol and two weeks of food.  

“It’s just amazing to see a community taking care of a community any way we can. I’m very proud.”

The community will be limiting entry indefinitely. Cardinal said leadership will give a weekly update on any changes. 

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