Covid outbreak shouldn’t impact flooding evacuation plans: Premier

Overlooking Old Town from the Pilot's Monument. (Supplied by Catherine Graydon)
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Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) says it is unlikely residents of communities won’t be able to evacuate to Yellowknife, despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation in the city.

Communities are currently developing flooding mitigation plans in anticipation of breakup season, which could see many communities at an elevated risk of flooding with water levels at record highs on the Great Slave Lake.

Some communities like Hay River, have set up evacuation shelters in town. Others, like Fort Simpson may evacuate people to Yellwoknife if needed.

But the N.J. Macpherson COVID-19 outbreak is ongoing in Yellowknife, with the number of exposure risks, contacts and confirmed cases continuing to climb.

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But this shouldn’t interrupt evacuations to Yellowknife, according to Jay Boast, spokesperson for MACA.

“We have not yet reached the determination that evacuees can not come to Yellowknife but in the unlikely event that Yellowknife was unable to host evacuees other hub communities would be identified based on capacity,” Boast said in an email. “Redundancies are always being planned for and can be implemented if necessary, when necessary.”

Premier Caroline Cochrane said the plan is for Yellowknife to remain a major evacuation centre.

“But if things do not get addressed within the next couple of weeks, we’re looking at alternatives,” she said during a press conference on Monday.

Boast said MACA has been working with the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer to include COVID-19 mitigation in all the flooding evacuation plans.

“Group accommodations in a sports facility or a school are the standard for emergency evacuation but we understand that both the risk of COVID and the anxiety around this risk poses its own challenges,” said Boast. “Because of COVID-19 considerations, normal shelter arrangements are less ideal for managing risk when hosting large groups.”

Boast said this could mean using commercial facilities may be included in some plans, if need be.

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