A northern Saskatchewan Dene community is facing both a water and a COVID-19 crisis.
Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation declared a state of emergency on Nov. 9 after its water treatment plant experienced mechanical issues.
That same day, the Athabasca Health Authority reported the community’s first coronavirus case.
As of Tuesday, the health authority said there are 39 positive cases in 18 households in the community, with 219 direct contacts identified. No recoveries have been reported.
Roughly 25 per cent of the approximately 1,000 people in the community are currently self-isolating, according to Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation’s emergency team.
“We are doing everything we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Diane McDonald, Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation’s COVID-19 co-ordinator, said Monday in a statement.
“We have implemented a lockdown to stop non-essential travel outside of the community, and we have declared a state of emergency to access more funds to cover support services.”
“However, the virus is spreading so fast we are overwhelmed by what steps to take next.”
Add to that, said McDonald, is the lack of clean water.
“We have implemented our emergency plans to ensure clean water is back in the community, and we expect to have the plant running in about a week’s time,” she said.
“But, in the meantime, our members don’t have adequate access to clean water for basic hygiene and safety purposes, which is essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Essential workers are under an “incredible strain,” said McDonald and help is needed.
“Many members also rely on ordering their essential needs from grocery stores down south, but they are being charged more for freight costs, and some are not getting their essential goods in a timely manner, which is deepening our current crisis with every new day.”
“Canada needs to step in and provide a subsidy to cover the higher cost of freight related to essential supplies needed for COVID-19.”
The Athabasca Health Authority is reporting other coronavirus cases in its region.
There are currently four active cases in two households in Black Lake, with 45 close contacts identified.
The health authority is also reporting two active cases in one household in Uranium City, with eight close contacts identified. There has been one recovery reported.