An employee at the Big River Service Centre in Fort Providence remains concerned that not enough is being done to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as people make stops while travelling from the NWT border to their quarantine destinations in Yellowknife.
Linda Croft, a cashier with the service centre and councillor with the hamlet, sent a letter to the Government of the Northwest Territories on May 22 demanding that border officers “explain in detail to those coming in from Alberta, B.C., etc. to not stop anywhere between the border and isolation/quarantine zone.”
Croft said current circumstances are making her feel vulnerable at the isolated service centre.
In her letter to the GNWT, she states that people coming across the border during the pandemic usually don’t need to stop, either for gas or any other emergency requirement but end up coming into the store anyway, often in groups and without gloves or masks.
“They come into the store, use the bathroom, wander around, touching things, grabbing junk food and lingering while they do so,” she stated in the letter. “We (myself and other staff) attempt to identify these persons – as we feel there is no need for them to be in the store. They should go directly to their quarantine zone.”
Croft says safety guidelines should state that when getting gas, only one person can exit the vehicle. The store also provides gloves and sanitizer and there’s a sign on the door telling people not to enter unless necessary, especially if coming in from across the border.
“There is the problem,” Croft stated. ” Most people… don’t follow those rules, those signs, the directions given at the border. Just (recently) on my seven-hour shift there were three vehicles that were confirmed to be travelling over the border. None had gloves, none had masks and none showed any care for those in the store when they entered. “
Identifying high-risk customers
Croft said one idea to help limit the risk to her, her co-workers and other store customers is for the GNWT to issue coloured wristbands that cannot be removed more than once. The wristbands would identify one of the four communities where travellers are expected to self-isolate.
“That way if someone enters the store – we know right away this is a high-risk customer,” she wrote. “People could remove the bands, but when they reach their final destination they will have some explaining to do as to why it is no longer on their wrist.
“The safety of myself and my fellow co-workers is deserving of attention to this matter.”
Croft said in an interview that she usually picks up on who poses a risk from chit-chat while people are in the store. Because Fort Providence is very small, it’s also easy to recognize local customers.
She also knows the truckers coming through but said she isn’t as concerned about them because she knows their destinations and points of origin.
“I just don’t think enough is being done to (impress) upon people that you are not to stop when you are under quarantine and that it means you go to where your designated area is and that’s where you stay until your time,” she said. “You see people coming in and they’re dragging little kids with them and they’re handling everything in the stores and one it’s a huge stress. It’s not fair to the other people who come in to the store.”
Croft said she’s also immune compromised as she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.
“I’m also older,” she said. “My family has asked me to quit the job because of the location and then things sort of died down. At one point I even thought about (quitting) because if cases keep popping up in the North, I would have to leave for a while. ”
Questions were submitted to the GNWT for a response to some of the issues that Croft raised. There was no reply prior to press deadline.