Chapleau Cree and North Spirit Lake released statements on March 18 about non-essential services and developing a pandemic plan.
“We’ve taken every precaution — we’ve shut down the office,” says Chapleau Cree Chief Keith Corston. “We’re keeping in touch with Mushkegowuk (Council) — I had a conference call yesterday and today we have a conference call with NAN (Nishnawbe Aski Nation).”
Chapleau Cree is currently providing essential services only to citizens and business associates. The community is located off of Hwy. 129 near Chapleau, which has a hospital and four physicians.
“We’re basically making sure the Elders are fine,” Corston says. “We stopped all travel. We’re encouraging people to stay home as much as possible.”
Chapleau Cree has also cancelled all meetings, events and activities until further notice. Corston says the community decided to shut everything down during a managers meeting between the council, the health team and the managers of the different departments.
“Everything is precautionary — there is no sign of that (COVID-19) virus in the area,” Corston says. “However, that is why all of these precautions are necessary because you don’t want it here. It’s the precautionary measures that are going to put the halt on this. You don’t want it to spread, so that is why any places where people are gathering, you want to limit that as much as possible.”
Corston says the band office is down to a “skeleton staff” of mainly the health team.
“The necessary people would be your health coordinator and your nurse and RPN and the administrator goes in periodically,” Corston says, noting that non-essential staff are working from home until April 1. “I’m taking that conference call from home today.”
Chapleau Cree plans to hold a meeting with the senior management team and councillors on March 23 to review operational planning for each department.
The North Spirit Lake update says the community’s hotel is being shut down and work is continuing on the development of a pandemic plan for COVID-19.
“We’re going to use our hotel as an isolation if it comes to that,” says North Spirit Lake Deputy Chief Rita Thompson.
North Spirit Lake also posted a notice to hire extra staff for the public works department.
“We just needed to make sure we have extra people on hand if people get sick,” Thompson says. “We need two people on hand to make sure everybody has water … and other things.”
North Spirit Lake also ordered a supply of non-perishable food in case of food shortages, with the food scheduled to arrive beginning on March 20.
“Everybody is being advised not to be in crowds,” Thompson says. “Even the stores are taking precautionary measures to limit people to come and go into the store.”
North Spirit Lake is also encouraging citizens to limit travel to essential trips.
“Unnecessary travel is not recommended,” Thompson says, noting that people are still travelling on the winter road to other communities. “They’re travelling still back and forth — we haven’t said anything about closing the road down.”
North Spirit Lake also stated that the practice of good hygiene at home and in public will “make the difference to battle the spread of and infections — wash your hands, disinfect your home in any way you can and please stay home if you are sick.”