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COMMUNITY REPORT: Minimal services leave Wrigley vulnerable to Covid-19 outbreak

For residents of Wrigley, their main connection to the outside world is the Mackenzie Highway, which ends at their small community. 

And if Covid-19 reaches here, residents know the silent enemy will probably come via the all-season road. 

We barely get any visitors,” Chief Maurice Moses told NNSL Media

The small community of Wrigley sits on the east bank of the Mackenzie River. Google map

But while that fact helps protect Wrigley -– or Pedzéh Kı̨́ in the Dene language -- against coronavirus, the community's remoteness is also its vulnerability because there are no doctors, nurses or stores there. 

I think this weekend we’re sending out some hunters and they’re going to see if they can get some moose for the community and some fish so we don't have to rely on the Northern Store. We have to go to Fort Simpson for groceries,” a 220-km drive away, the chief said.

Moses is well aware of Wrigley’s vulnerability and said the community will take extra precautions to guard against the pandemic. 

“As soon as there’s a case in Simpson we’ll barricade ourselves,” he said.

Even with its small population of about 120 people, the community is taking social distancing seriously. 

“Everyone phones one another. We don't socialize anymore. We only have one staff member in the band office (now), who does the mail. Everyone has quarantined themselves,” Moses said. “We know there are cases in Yellowknife and elsewhere. It’s coming. Hopefully everyone takes care of themselves because it’s pretty serious. It’s a serious virus.” 

Wrigley’s school is closed and the only public place still open is the health centre, which has maintained regular hours and is staffed by a health support worker. 

Health protocol

A small number of people in Wrigley have been tested for Covid-19. The support worker in the health centre administers the tests. 

Moses said everyone seems healthy for now.

“The health authority has given (medical) gear to the support worker. As soon as someone reports they’re getting sick ... people could quarantine themselves until test results are back. I already told the Dene Nation in our last meeting that there should be (a doctor) here full-time just to be on the safe side.”

Out on the land

Most residents pass the time inside their homes. Others go hunting. The youth, like the chief’s two sons, play online video games. 

When his boys aren’t playing inside they also hunt. 

“They’re steady out on the land. They go out as a group to the islands and look for moose. They keep away from town. It keeps them busy. But I tell them when they’re out there they have to keep their distance, they can't huddle up together. They know and they're doing their part. I tell them to be careful,” Moses said. 

Some families have gone out on the land but the chief said other families are waiting until the community receives its share of the $2.6 million earmarked by Ottawa for transportation, fuel, food, and medical equipment for NWT Indigenous people who want to self-isolate on the land. 

Wrigley is a member of the Dehcho First Nation, which is among the designated recipients of the funding. 

Our people want to go back on the land but there’s just no funding and it’s sure taking its time to come,” Moses said.