Tuktoyaktuk is coming together to protect itself from the COVID-19 virus, with the largest community hunt in the hamlet’s history already underway to ensure the community has enough food in case supply lines drop down.
“It’s the biggest harvest we’ve ever done,” said Mayor Erwin Elias. “We are trying to harvest muskox, moose, caribou and ptarmigan. So far we’ve had some people who’ve been successful with their hunt and brought meat back and there’s a vehicle in front of me right now delivering to elders.
“If anybody wants to get a moose, it’s $1,000 for the moose brought back, cut up of course. There’s been a lot of money being spent on gas, shells and food for all these people to go out and harvest. It alleviates the pressure off of the stores, which could very well be a problem going forward, COVID-19 has no end date.”
On top of that, while the stores are still open a special elder’s shopping time has been established between 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Northern Store and 1-3 p.m. at the local Stanton’s Store.
In spite of the strong community spirit, Elias said he was still gravely concerned about COVID-19 reaching his community, noting the local health centre had the capacity for one isolated patient at a time.
He said he was looking into if the school could be temporally converted into a quarantine zone for treating people.
With a close-knit community just shy of 900 people, Elias said once the virus got into the community, it wouldn’t take long to decimate the population.
And he’s being brutally pragmatic about it.
My concern right now isn’t if it comes in — it’s when it comes in,” he said. “If the virus somehow ever leaked into the Beaufort Delta and into Tuk, once we get more than one case, where do we go?”
Until that day comes, Elias said he’s busy getting the community as ready as it can be and is constantly getting updated from the territory and from local health authorities.
“We just finished doing a teleconference this morning,” he said. “We’re dealing with Northern and Stanton to make sure everyone’s still practicing the social distancing, because that’s all we really can do right now. We’re working with our contractors to get extra water to our housing units.
“We had an interagency meeting the other day and we’re going to have another one on March 31st — that’s going to update everyone on where we are and also getting something solid in place for the community to have an actual Emergency Management Plan that deals specifically with COVID-19.
“This also involves transportation, funding for bedding and nurses — to see if they are even able to work in another building. I’m hoping this meeting on Tuesday clarifies that.”
Regardless, as the community works with borrowed time to prepare for COVID-19, Elias said he was impressed with the efforts of the GNWT to minimize traffic going in and out of the Beaufort.
“I’m really happy that they tightened up with the airport and are bringing people right to the MacKenzie Hotel. That is huge. So I have faith they are taking care of that. If people come back, I’m sure they will have completed their isolation.
“The only way to beat this disease is if we all work together and self-isolate. Of course you have to do your shopping and you can still go out, but keeping apart is the only way we’re going to be able to keep everybody together.”