'A real team effort': Alberta First Nations remain COVID-19-free more than one month into pandemic
EDMONTON -- COVID-19 has been spreading across Alberta since the start of March, but the province's 46 First Nations reserves have managed to keep the virus out so far.
The Samson Cree Nation credits measures the community has put in place since the pandemic was declared.
"We got organizing and got busy right away," said Chief Vernon Saddleback. "We sent home all non-essential staff and sent home all our elder staff and any staff with pre-existing physical illnesses or disabilities."
Signs into the community are warning visitors to stay away, and Maskwacis — which includes Samson Cree Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Montana First Nation and Louis Bull Tribe — has a range of measures in place including checkpoints. Curfews are also being discussed.
"We don't want to be the first ones and I'm sure every other nation doesn't want to be the first one so we're taking every measure we can take to stop this," said Murray Potts, the First Nation's director of emergency management.
Maskwacis has ordered trailers and turned a school building into an isolation area.
"Our plan is if there is a positive case, then we take out the elders, handicapped and disabled, and take them to these locations to separate them from where the individual is sick," Potts said.
Saddleback said it has been "a real team effort" to keep the novel coronavirus at bay.