Cambridge Bay pulls together to fight COVID-19

“During this time of need and uncertainty, we have people who want to help”

The Hamlet of Cambridge Bay has been encouraging all those who have arrived from outside the western Nunavut community to self-isolate when they return home. But Monday’s announcement from the Government of Nunavut now means that after March 24 they will have to undergo “a mandatory 14-day isolation period in either Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife.”(Photo courtesy of the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay)

By Jane George

People in Cambridge Bay say they’re ready to step up and help their community deal with COVID-19.

Only hours after Mayor Pamela Gross created a Facebook page called “Cambridge Bay Volunteers during COVID-19” on Sunday, March 22, more than 100 people from this western Nunavut community of about 1,800 had asked to join the effort.

“During this time of need and uncertainty, we have people who want to help. This page is for those who need help to ask us residents of Cambridge Bay for that extra support,” Gross said.

“Quana everyone for asking for help and those who are able to help. Just as we’ve always done for one another.”

Some volunteers offered to help people in self-isolation, who are either older, vulnerable to infection, under quarantine, or newly returned to the community.

Another resident had a suggestion to teach Inuinnaqtun via community radio.

New activities are being welcomed by those in Cambridge Bay, which had already cancelled activities at the hall, the youth centre, preschool and weight room from March 16 to April 7.

But the municipality is urging its residents to get outside while at the same time, practising social distancing.

With the closures of indoor recreational facilities and activity programs, three outdoor ice rinks were created earlier than usual.

It’s still nippy in Cambridge Bay, with wind chills dipping to the -30  to – 40 range, but when the sun comes out, skaters will have a choice of three rinks, including this one, to play on. (Photo courtesy of the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay)

“As a community we are respecting social distancing so if you see 10 people on the ice, please just wait until it is less busy. Please remember to remind your children that social distancing and hygiene is the same indoors or outdoors,” said the council’s announcement about the new rinks.

Some in the community, even those who are have good jobs, remain concerned about food security.

“We just bought 14 days of food and water in case self-isolation is required,” said one resident, who asked to not be named. “But we worry about the food insecurity which is prevalent throughout our North, and the hamlet needs to ensure families who must self-isolate have support.”

The Cambridge Bay Food Bank is still open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, and the municipality has said that if they have to close the food bank to the public as a result of COVID-19, “we will continue to provide this service by delivering the food to those that express need.”

They’re also in the process of preparing sanitizing kits, which will be distributed through the food bank when they are ready.

“As a precaution you can prepare your own effective cleaning solution for this virus by using one to two teaspoons of bleach added to one litre of water. This solution will be active for about four days so you will need to replace it after that time,” the statement suggested.

Cambridge Bay has also formed a COVID-19 Emergency Planning Group to discuss and exchange information about the global pandemic.

This group includes members of Nunavut’s Department of Health, hamlet councillors and administrators, the RCMP, school principals and staff from the Emergency Management Organization, Polar Knowledge Canada and the Ovayok Broadcasting Society.

On March 12, Cambridge Bay was among the first communities in Nunavut to ask visitors to refrain from visiting and opt to meet by teleconference or videoconference instead.

After that, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station said it was acting to reduce the COVID-19 risk by shutting down to the public and taking preventive measures focused on protecting its employees and Cambridge Bay residents.

Some Cambridge Bay residents had said they hoped the Government of Nunavut would stop all non-essential passenger flights to Nunavut immediately to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

That happened on Monday, March 23, when Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, banned most travel into the territory.

This order means that after today Nunavut residents will have to spend 14 days in quarantine before they head north.

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