Chief David Poitras is sensing that some people in Fort Smith are getting tired of staying home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think some people are starting to be restless, not knowing when this isolation is going to end,” said the leader of Salt River First Nation (SRFN) on April 23. “Some people are OK with it. Myself, some days I’m OK and some days I get restless, too. But I know what could happen if I get Covid, so it kind of keeps me isolating.”
Poitras has been working from home, but he has been getting lots of phone calls and participating in teleconferences.
“I can tell by how they sound in talking to them,” he said. “They sound like, ‘I’m getting tired of this.'”
However, Poitras said people need to stick with the guidelines from the NWT’s chief public health officer in order to stay safe.
“We have to, whether we like it or not,” he said. “We don’t have many options. Covid-19 is a killer.”
Like elsewhere in the NWT, schools, recreational facilities and many businesses are closed in Fort Smith, except for essential services.
One of those essential services is the Petro-Canada gas bar owned and operated by SRFN.
“We have a lot of safety measures in place,” said Poitras. “Like we installed Plexiglas between the guy at the till and the customer. We use the back door to enter now and the front door to leave. And only three people at a time in there. And we closed the bathroom to the public, not because we wanted to, but it’s safer for our staff.”
In addition, the Tim Hortons outlet at the gas bar has been temporarily closed.
“We closed that for safety, too, because it just brought too many people over there,” said Poitras. “The bigger the crowd, the harder it is to manage for the safety of our staff.”
The chief hasn’t heard of any concern about the food supply in Fort Smith.
When some smaller communities were setting up checkpoints on roads, there was Facebook discussion about whether Fort Smith should do the same.
Poitras noted the discussions included a couple of members of Salt River First Nation.
“I discouraged that because people don’t have authority behind them to do that,” he said.
Poitras said the NWT is in totally unprecedented times, although he noted sickness also spread over the land in the early decades of the last century.
“My mom told me stories about some of the flu,” he said. “My great-aunt was a medicine woman and helped look after people. At that time, nobody knew about social distancing, and the viruses came in and just wiped out a lot of people.”
As of April 23, there was no confirmed case of Covid-19 in Fort Smith.
“That’s a blessing,” said Poitras.