Community workers in Eden Valley are making a plea to neighbouring communities for food and supplies as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Alberta.
Early intervention co-ordinator Michele Edwards is one of three woman collecting food, hygiene items and baby supplies for the First Nations community west of Longview to help take the pressure off community members. Collection began Tuesday.
“Many of these families live in extreme poverty and do not have the means to stock up on supplies,” said Edwards. “Many of them do not have transportation to drive the 30-60 minutes to purchase essentials and many are caring for children and elderly who may be considered high risk.”
Edwards said they’re requesting baby formula and diapers, vitamins, hand and dish soap, feminine hygiene products, toiletries, cleaning supplies, gloves, masks, first aid supplies, non-perishable food items and frozen foods and meats. Donations from residents and businesses are being collected in Black Diamond, Okotoks and High River and brought to the Eden Valley Community Wellness Centre for the health nurse and community workers to distribute.
Edwards said the donations will allow community members to focus on feeding their families while in self-isolation.
“People don’t know how long this is going to last or whether their resources are going to last,” she said. “A lot of people have different health challenges and there are quite a few elderly, as well, so the less they’re out in public the better. If we can provide resources instead of having community members go to town we are minimizing the risk.”
Hopeton Louden, Eden Valley’s chief administrative officer, said many people in Eden Valley are anxious and scared. Alberta Health confirmed 146 cases of COVID-19 in the province and one death on Thursday.
With the Child Tax Benefit going into bank accounts today, Louden said some people will drive to nearby communities in hopes to stock up on supplies, but with empty shelves at so many stores they may return lacking much-needed supplies. That’s why assistance from other communities is so critical, he said.
“We’re so gracious to our surrounding communities in supporting us in many ways and, from an economic point of view, we support them because all of our purchases are in their communities except for gasoline,” he said. “It’s a mutual benefit.”
A struggle the community is facing is the requirement for social distancing, Louden said.
“Social distancing is difficult because we have homes that are overcrowded,” he said. “The Prime Minister does recognize the high risk to First Nations communities because housing is such an issue. Though we try to be cautionary, it’s one of those things that’s difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.”
Most Eden Valley facilities are closed including the school, administration building and daycare while essential services remain open including the gas bar, health centre, public works office, housing office and water treatment plant, Louden said.
He said precautions are being taken at public places like the gas bar and health centre where people are required to wash their hands with sanitation kits.
“At the health centre, a desk is blocking entry until you wash your hands and you sanitize and then you’re let through,” he said. “We have ongoing cleaning of the facility – every surface that can be touched. It’s a real good conscious effort. Mirroring that in the community is important.”
Other preparations have been taken. Hunters recently went out to harvest wild meat, Louden said.
“It’s been prepared and stored in some of the freezers, should we have a situation where we can’t go out,” he said.
Louden said talks are in the works for the potential to have testing for COVID-19 in Eden Valley due to its remote location.
“There is some conversations with Alberta Health Services to the capacity of local staff administering the test for COVID-19,” he said. “We’re not sure where that’s at. We’re capable and we’d be willing should that be the instruction that’s passed on to us as a health facility.”
During this uncertain time, Louden said the Bearspaw First Nation’s chief and council has been supportive and hands-on in terms of getting facilities ready and motivating the community to get involved with preparations.
“Food storage is the major one, and preparation at the school for anyone who might become infected,” he said. “Safety equipment for our health staff, like masks, are all coming in.”
Chief Darcy Dixon said the Eden Valley Community Wellness Centre is responding to the demands of the situation the community finds itself in.
“We’re working on following the direction of Alberta Health Services and Indigenous Affairs Health in recommendations, along with the Stoney Tribe's emergency plans, to make sure our community members are safe,” he said.
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