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No positive COVID-19 cases on Stoney Nakoda

“We do not have a positive case on the Nation which is really, really encouraging because Cochrane has it, Canmore has it – we are surrounded by it but I think we are doing a really great job of getting the message out."

STONEY NAKODA – As the Nation gears up to celebrate the holiday weekend, Stoney Nakoda officials set up a check-stop to share COVID-19 information while also announcing the good news of still no positive cases on the reserve.

“We do not have a positive case on the Nation which is really, really encouraging because Cochrane has it, Canmore has it – we are surrounded by it but I think we are doing a really great job of getting the message out,” Director of Emergency Management Mike Crawford said in a phone interview.

Emergency services personnel were decked out in personal protective equipment (PPE), sporting face masks and gloves as they handed out COVID-19 information sheets for Nation members visiting the Morley townsite Thursday (April 9) afternoon.

Several cars lined up as they left the post office, Centex gas station, administration band office or the Stoney Health Centre, where the bi-weekly fruits and vegetable market by Fresh Routes was being hosted. With no grocery store in the townsite, officials acknowledged the issue of Nation residents travelling to neighbouring communities to go grocery shopping and noted that was one of the reasons they wanted to share COVID-19 recommendations. 

“We wanted to do an awareness for the Nation members to avoid travelling [if possible], follow government regulations and proper handwashing … we are recommending that they stay home and if they do travel to make sure one person goes but to avoid unnecessary travel and mingling,” Crawford said.

Holding stop signs, Nation firefighters asked drivers to take a quick minute to hear about ways to protect themselves. Key messages included avoiding leaving the Nation, only shopping for essentials and handwashing.

The Stoney Nakoda Nation which consists of three bands, Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley, and three reserve locations, Bighorn, Morley and Eden Valley, has a population of approximately 4,000-5,000 and shares borders with the Municipal District of Bighorn, Canmore, Kananaskis Country, Rocky View County and Cochrane.  

The new infectious COVID-19 coronavirus hit Alberta over a month ago with cases increasing to 1,500 positive cases, as of Friday (April 10), with 39 reported deaths and 713 people recovered. Provincial officials also suspect 201 cases are community transmitted. 

While neighbouring regions have recorded positive cases – the MD of Bighorn region which includes Canmore and Exshaw, has 14 cases, six active and eight recovered, and the Rocky View County region which includes Cochrane has 25 cases, seven active and 18 recovered – Stoney Nakoda officials said they felt fortunate to still be at zero cases for the Nation.

“Some of the positives in the last two to three weeks is we’ve really built a robust command system and we got our Chiefs and council on board an all working together,” Crawford said. 

Chief and council applauded the proactive approach in getting the local State of Emergency declared the same day the province announced a public health emergency, while also initiating the Nation’s Emergency Command Centre (ECC) early on to share information, organizer food hampers and mitigate the global pandemic.

“I would like to give the Nakoda Emergency Management team a big thank you. You are doing a wonderful job, please continue,” Bearspaw Councillor Rob Hunter said in a video on social media. 

The Director of Emergency Management said they are still looking into other options, including restricting reserve access to non-Nation members and imposing curfews, but noted nothing had been decided.

Stoney Tribal Administration CEO Ryan Robb explained it would be hard to close off every entrance to the reserve, as it is actually unknown how many entrances there are to the Nation with estimates as low as seven but as high as 19.

But as the COVID-19 information evolves, so do the mitigations. Earlier this week, Nation officials took the steps to restrict access as they announced the closure of Star Ranch Road.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Star Ranch Road will be closed effective Friday, April 10, 2020. There will be no access from the Nation from George Fox Trail in Cochrane until further notice,” the notice read.

“The Nakoda Emergency Management team with the Cochrane RCMP will be actively monitoring the road closure. We ask that community members comply with the closure.”

The same day, officials also confirmed that all Stoney Nation buildings are closed except for those conduction essential services. The closed buildings included all gyms, schools, arenas, or any other gathering places.

“We are after as good an outcome as everyone else,” Robb said in a phone interview.

“We are well-structured, well-planned and have the same sort of heartburn that every other group has … but should something take a funny twist at least we are better prepared to deal with it."

If band members have questions about COVID-19, food hamper delivery or the Emergency Management COVID-19 Pandemic Plan, call the Emergency Management Information line at 1-833-881-3499. 

To stay up to date on COVID-19 Nation updates, visit stoneynakodanation.com

 

The COVID-19 Nakoda Emergency Management recommendations were:

  • Avoid leaving the Nation.
  • If leaving for essentials, only one person should go.
  • Shop when the store is not too busy.
  • Try and keep six feet between you and others.
  • Avoid touching your eyes and mouth when you are out.
  • Try and have only one person go into the store.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 before leaving home and when you return.
  • Bring sanitizing wipes with you so you can clean any shopping cart or baskets you use.
  • Stay home if possible.
  • Avoid visiting.
  • Avoid gatherings.
  • Avoid handshakes and hugs.

 

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