The latest data appears to support the relatively strict and early measures chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola took in closing the NWT’s border to non-essential travel and banning large gatherings.
Last week, the territory was able to report no active cases of Covid-19 in the territory, since all five of our patients had recovered from their illnesses. For sports fans, this would be a time to expect a trophy, maybe called something like “Covid Crusher – eliminate the virus in your territory.”
Kandola is obviously well-suited for her role. The former Johns Hopkins University student who was chief public health officer during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, is the tip of the spear in the effort to prevent the pandemic from spreading within the NWT, specifically, from reaching vulnerable remote communities ill-equipped for a rush of infections.
However, there are trophies out there left to be claimed.
“Job Juggernaut – reopen your economy,” could be one. “Life of the Party – ease restrictions on gatherings” could be another.
Kandola warns against easing restrictions too early and that is something that must be respected. She told reporters April 20 that restrictions will likely remain in place for another four to six weeks. Ok, but what happens after that?
As it stands, parents of school-age children are expecting to be stuck at home with them until September and news Wednesday that Dominion Diamond has filed for insolvency protection reminds us that the virus is far from the only threat imperiling the territory.
Just warning us to expect some “new normal” isn’t good enough at best and Orwellian at worst.
Northerners who have been coping with public health orders that were last week red-flagged by the Canadian Civil Liberties Union as “unnecessarily vague” deserve to have some idea as to whether Kandola’s office is factoring in what is happening in other places around the world into their decision-making, or just maintaining lockstep with her national counterpart, Dr. Theresa Tam, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While Trudeau and premiers from provinces including Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia give daily briefings with reporters, Premier Caroline Cochrane and the rest of cabinet seem to be content to stand in Kandola’s shadow. That means a lot of the political discussions related to the territory’s Covid-19 response are not being held.
With Kandola in place the NWT is well-armed in the fight against Covid-19, but the bottom line is that she and her staff, including this mysterious 30-or-so person enforcement/compliance task force contracted to give teeth to her orders, are unelected GNWT employees focused primarily on public health.
It’s time for our duly elected MLAs, and cabinet in particular, to start filling in the gaps on how the thousands of Northerners not collecting a government salary right now are going to get back to work.
And how the government, with most of its staff working from home, is going to deal with the tremendous mid-term and long-term problems the territory is facing, including shut down schools that not only prevent students from getting an education but seriously hamper parents from getting back to work.
And of course, how to get the territory back on its feet now that the economy is ruins.
The NWT has been in lockdown mode and in reactive state of paralysis for the past five weeks. It’s time to start being proactive and figure some things out. What say you legislative assembly? What is the plan?