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Rangers, Red Cross help with Sahtu COVID-19 outbreak

Nine Canadian Rangers are now in Sahtu communities assisting with the response to recent COVID-19 outbreaks, Joint Task Force North (JTFN) spokesperson Capt. Suzanne Nogue said on Aug. 25.
Master Cpl Brenda Tseleie, left, and Master Cpl Camilla Rabesca are two Rangers currently working in Fort Good Hope, where there are 89 active cases of COVID-19, the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer reported on Aug. 24. Photo courtesy of Colin Pierrot

Nine Canadian Rangers are now in Sahtu communities assisting with the response to recent COVID-19 outbreaks, Joint Task Force North (JTFN) spokesperson Capt. Suzanne Nogue said on Aug. 25.

The Ranger personnel were deployed by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) on Aug. 23 after the GNWT asked for help dealing with the recent outbreaks.

NWT chief public health officer (CPHO) Dr. Kami Kandola announced seven new cases in the region on Aug. 24.

There are currently 225 active cases in the territory.

Gabe Kochon, an Elder from Fort Good Hope, was medevacked to Yellowknife after feeling dehydrated and passed away on Aug. 23 from COVID-19.

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One-hundred and ninety-four of the cases are in Sahtu communities and 27 are in Yellowknife.

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“The CAF activated nine Canadian Rangers from the patrols of Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, Tulita, Deline and Colville Lake to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts within those respective communities,” Nogue said.

There is one Ranger in Colville Lake and two in Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, Tulita and Deline, according to the GNWT.

Their duties include co-ordinating activities with chief and councils; providing logistical support with transportation, cleaning, food delivery, firewood deliveries, and bringing water and supplies to people who are self-isolating.

One liaison officer from JTFN is also working with the Territory Emergency Management Office (TEMO) in Yellowknife to support planning efforts and a second CAF member will join the effort soon, Nogue added.

CAF will initially assist communities for 14 days, with two possible 14-day extensions if needed based on joint assessments by the military and GNWT.

In Norman Wells, where on Aug. 25 the CPHO set a 10-day containment order, two Rangers are on the ground transporting supplies and medications, supporting local COVID-19 awareness programs and helping to set up remote clinics, the town’s emergency coordinator Misty Rayner said.

“The community is happy with the assistance being provided by the Canadian Rangers,” Rayner said. “It is important to remember that most of the Canadian Rangers activated are members of the communities that they are serving.”

In Fort Good Hope, Chief Tommy Kakfwi said the local Rangers are helping to make sure the containment order is followed and that residents are isolating.

Two Compliance and Enforcement Officers, who operate under the COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat are also in the community working with the leadership and the NWT Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA).

The NTHSSA is receiving assistance from nine outside healthcare providers in the current outbreak, said spokesperson David Maguire.

The Red Cross has sent seven registered nurses and one licensed practical nurse.

One field epidemiologist from the Public Health Agency of Canada was sent to the NWT, a role that involves “investigating outbreaks to inform the allocation of resources for response activities to best address and contain the spread of a contagion.”

The NTHSSA spokesperson said NWT staff resources have so far been sufficient to manage the outbreaks by “redirecting resources.”

“(But) there is a risk that our internal system resources could become overwhelmed – particularly if large numbers of staff become impacted by public exposure notices or availability of school/childcare in the coming weeks,” Maguire said.