Cuthand: Virus spreading through north could be disastrous

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It was a serious threat and we held our breath. Isolation and security checkpoints had been doing their job, but it took a work camp in Alberta to undo all the good work in the north.

As of Thursday, the La Loche area had more than 50 cases of COVID-19, all of which are traceable to an oilsands work camp north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Two elders have passed on as a result. Nineteen new cases in the La Loche area were announced on Friday.

This was the news we dreaded. If the virus spreads throughout northern communities, it may have disastrous results. Northern communities have crowded housing, distant health services and low standards of living, all of which combine to create a vulnerable population.

Northern communities like La Loche have been neglected and underserviced for years. Employment is seasonal and often requires travel to northern mines or construction sites. Housing is poor and overcrowded, and government services fall short of what is required. Instead the government preferred to warehouse people on welfare.