A community lockdown and mass testing are being credited for stopping a potential COVID-19 outbreak in Janvier.
Back in May, a member of the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation tested positive for the virus. The exact circumstances of how they got sick has not been made public.
The individual immediately went into self-isolation, while their family all got tested.
“We offered food hampers and food to the household and there was other options if he or she wanted to isolate in Fort McMurray,” said Miranda Cardinal, band councillor with the First Nation.
The Athabasca Tribal Council has set up a centre to allow those who get COVID-19 a spot to self-isolate, however, the individual decided to stay at home.
With the member and their family being taken care of, the First Nation turned their attention to the entire population to determine whether they were dealing with a single case or potential outbreak.
Over the previous two months, they have had a checkstop set up outside of the hamlet. There, members and visitors all had their temperatures checked.
If high, residents would be asked to self-isolate, while those visiting would be refused entry.
“We’ve refused a few people who’ve tried to come into the community that weren’t members… they were here to visit or stay and we said no, we can’t have that,” added Cardinal.
The checkstop has also been joined with a curfew/ lockdown. From 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., only those who live in the community were allowed in.
Even with these preventative measures, the First Nation knew they needed to test residents to determine whether the virus had spread.
Like several of the rural communities across Wood Buffalo, Janvier has a housing problem which sees many living together in small spaces – making it easy for the virus to spread.
They quickly partnered with Alberta Health Services and tested 314 local residents, with all 314 turning up negative.
Cardinal says it was a relief to know they had only one isolated case. She notes the community, for the most part, was very calm and understanding about the situation.
“We were all well aware of what was going on with COVID-19 because we were already two months into and we’ve been self-isolating since then.”
The individual has since recovered.
The First Nation, who was discussing lifting some measures just before the positive case, is planning on keeping these rules in place for the time being.