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‘We’re very proactive’: Blood Tribe declares state of emergency despite zero confirmed cases of COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Blood Tribe working to protect members after declaring state of emergency'
Blood Tribe working to protect members after declaring state of emergency
WATCH: Southern Alberta’s Blood Tribe has zero confirmed cases of COVID-19, but chief and council declared a local state of emergency on Monday night. Danica Ferris has more on how the community is trying to get ahead of the pandemic. – Mar 17, 2020

Blood Tribe Chief Roy Fox and council declared a state of emergency on Monday night — less than 24 hours before the Alberta government did the same across the province — despite zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the southern Alberta community.

“I feel in a lot of situations [we] have advised our leaders before the province has,” said Jacen Abrey, the director of essential services for the Blood Tribe, who has been appointed the director of emergency management during the pandemic.

“We were looking Friday at shutting our schools down, and then it was Sunday when the province actually announced they were going to shut the schools down. So everything we’re doing, we’re very proactive,” Abrey said.

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Chief Fox saying on Monday that council was committing $500,000 to help cover basic costs for members during the state of emergency, and added that essential services — like public works, housing, and social development — would continue for members.

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Council is also organizing the distribution of food hampers for residents in need.

“There’s a bit of chaos with grocery stores and keeping up with the supply,” said Lance Tailfeathers, a member of Blood Tribe Council. “So, we’re trying to get that expedited to our members, especially those that are unemployed and are less fortunate.”

Chief and council will now be meeting every Monday and Friday to monitor progress during the state of emergency, and the directors of essential services will meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to coordinate service.

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The Blood Tribe Department of Health will meet each morning before conferring with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the federal government.

The department has created a phone line specifically for members with questions regarding COVID-19, available in English or Blackfoot.

Kevin Cowan, CEO of the Blood Tribe Department of Health, said the idea for the local line was born out of long wait times calling 811.

“We received several calls last week from individuals that were struggling with getting through on 811, so the decision was made that we would use our own number,” said Cowan.

“Now when individuals call in, they are immediately connected with a paramedic who will do an assessment.”

The tribe is also utilizing a mobile medical unit to triage out in the community, and help to prevent unnecessary testing.

“We do recognize that there’s a limitation to resources, so we have to ensure that we use our resources wisely,” said Cowan.

According to Cowan, AHS is expected to start training more Blood Tribe medical staff on COVID-19 testing beginning Wednesday.

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