Transcript: COVID-19 in Ontario's North | Mar 20, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and gray plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "COVID-19 and northern communities. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says COVID-19'S PRESENCE IN ONTARIO'S NORTHERN REGIONS POSES SPECIFIC RISKS AS THERE ARE FEWER HEALTH CARE OPTIONS AND RESOURCES FOR A WIDELY DISPERSED POPULATION. NICK DUNNE IS OUR NORTHERN ONTARIO HUB MANAGER AND JOINS US VIA SKYPE WITH HOW THAT REGION IS COPING.

Nick is in his twenties, clean-shaven, with short blond hair. He's wearing a blue suit and shirt, and a striped purple tie.

Steve continues NICK, HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Nick says DOING WELL, THANK YOU, STEVE.

Steve says GIVE US THE COVID-19 UPDATE FOR NORTHERN ONTARIO, PLEASE.

The caption changes to "Nick Dunne. Northeastern Ontario Hub Journalist. Cases and response. @NickFDunne."

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/CurrentAffairs. COVID-19 moves north: How Sudbury is coping with the pandemic. By Nick Dunne."

Nick says RIGHT. SO AS OF NOW WE HAVE TWO CASES IN SUDBURY. THE FIRST A MAN IN HIS 50s. SO THOUGHT TO HAVE CONTRACTED IT AT THE PDAC CONFERENCE... THIS WAS AN INTERNATIONAL MINING CONFERENCE IN TORONTO. HE CAME BACK AND WE ALSO HAVE A SECOND WOMAN IN HER 60s IN SUDBURY. SHE IS THOUGHT TO HAVE CONTRACTED IT BY BEING IN CLOSE CONTACT WITH THE FIRST PATIENT. WE ALSO SEEN ONE CONFIRMED CASE IN ALGOMA DISTRICT. A WOMAN IN HER 50s, I BELIEVE. AND IN TIMMINS JUST LAST NIGHT WE'VE LEARNED THAT WE HAVE ONE PERSON WHO IS CONFIRMED TO HAVE COVID-19.

The caption changes to "Cases around the province."

Steve says OKAY. SO FOUR CASES TO DATE SO FAR. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CONTAINMENT MEASURES THAT ARE BEING TALKED ABOUT AND DONE IN NORTHERN ONTARIO AS A RESULT?

The caption changes to "For news from around the province: Tvo.org."

Nick says MM-HMM. WELL, FOR EXAMPLE TO START WITH THE CITY BUILDINGS, ALL MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS HAVE CLOSED. ALL CITY HALLS IN THESE FOUR CITIES HAVE CLOSED. TIMMINS CLOSED TODAY. WE'RE ALSO LOOKING AT THE HOSPITAL, LIMITED VISITORS. THEY'VE RESTRICTED THINGS SEVERELY THERE. AND WE'RE ALSO HAVING ASSESSMENT CENTRES IN ALL OF THESE CITIES. TRANSIT AS WELL. TRANSIT IS STILL GOING. BUT WE HAVE REAR ENTRIES ONLY. AND THEY'VE WAIVED THE TRANSIT FARES AS WELL FOR THAT.

The caption changes to "Remote community risks."

Steve says HMM. THAT IS SOMETHING I BET A LOT OF PEOPLE IN TORONTO WOULD LOVE TO SEE HAPPEN BUT THAT HASN'T HAPPENED HERE YET. LISTEN, I WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HAVING YOU HERE BY ASKING YOU ABOUT SOME OF MORE REMOTE PARTS OF THE PROVINCE WHICH DON'T GET A LOT OF ATTENTION. WE WANT TO DO THAT NOW. THAT'S LOCK ABOUT MOOSE CREEK, WHERE IS THAT FIRST OF ALL?

Nick says THAT'S WAY FAR UP IN THE NORTHEAST IN THE JAMES BAY. IT IS A TOWN... WELL, THERE ARE TWO TOWNS THERE IS MOOSONEE AND MOOSE FACTORY WHICH IS AN ISLAND. ALL OF THIS AREA TAKES UP MOOSE CREE AS WELL AS THE AREA OF MOCREEBEC. IT IS ABOUT 1,400 PEOPLE AND THEY'RE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE SITUATION IN TIMMINS RIGHT NOW.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says WHAT REMOTE... GIVEN THAT THEY ARE SUCH REMOTE COMMUNITIES ARE THERE SPECIFIC OR PARTICULARLY DIFFERENT CHALLENGES THAT THEY HAVE THERE FROM, SAY, THOSE WHO LIVE IN THE BIG CITIES?

Nick says THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION, STEVE. ON ONE HAND PEOPLE WILL THINK THAT BECAUSE THEY'RE REMOTE AND FAR AWAY THAT THIS ISN'T NECESSARILY A PROBLEM. BUT THESE COMMUNITIES ARE HIGHLY RELIANT ON HUB CITIES LIKE TIMMINS. IN THE NORTHWEST, THE REMOTE COMMUNITIES ARE RELIANT ON SIOUX LOOK OUT AND THUNDER BAY. NOW THAT WE HAVE COVID-19 IN TIMMINS THINGS WILL BE RAMPING UP. I JUST GOT OFF THE FIONA HUNTER WITH GRAND CHIEF SOLOMON WHICH LOOKS AT ALL THE COMMUNITIES IN JAMES BAY AND HUDSON BAY. HE IS SAYING THAT IT'S UNACCEPTABLE THAT THESE COMMUNITIES ARE STILL DEEMED "LOW RISK" BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

Steve says WHAT'S THE ALTERNATIVE FOR THEM RIGHT NOW?

Nick says WELL, THEY'RE DOING WHAT THEY CAN TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS IN THESE COMMUNITIES. THAT'S THE MOST THEY CAN DO IN THEIR SITUATION. THEY HAVE LIMITED RESOURCES, MAN POWER. IT'S BEEN HARD GETTING A HOLD OF THEM ON THE FIONA HUNTER JUST BECAUSE RESOURCES ARE SPREAD SO THIN. THEY ARE TELLING PEOPLE TO SELF-MONITOR AND IF ANYONE HAS BEEN IN TRAVELLING INTERNATIONALLY, IF THEY'VE BEEN IN A CITY IN CANADA THAT HAS HAD THE PRESENCE OF COVID-19 THEY ARE TOLD TO SELF-ISOLATE. BUT THE MAIN CONCERN HERE IS THAT A LOT OF THESE COMMUNITIES HAVE PROBLEMS WITH OVERCROWDING. THERE'S BEEN NEGLECT FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR SO LONG THAT ATTAWAPISKAT HAS 300 HOMES. HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO SELF-ISOLATE WHEN YOU HAVE AN AVERAGE OF SEVEN PEOPLE LIVING IN ONE DWELLING?

Steve says I DID NOTE THAT THE PRIME MINISTER MADE AN ANNOUNCEMENT THE OTHER DAY WITH A SPECIFIC MEASURE IN THAT ANNOUNCEMENT TO DEAL WITH INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS. ANDANTE COMMUNITIES DO YOU KNOW HOW WELL OR EITHER NOT THAT WAS RECEIVED THERE.

Nick says IT'S BEEN RECEIVED FAIRLY WELL. THERE IS 305 MILLION DOLLARS GOING TO FIRST NATIONS BUT THAT IS FEDERALLY. THAT'S ACROSS THE 600-ODD FIRST NATIONS IN OUR COUNTRY. THERE ARE STILL QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW EXACTLY THIS IS GOING TO APPLY TO FIRST NATIONS. THEY'RE HOPING THAT THE PROCESS FOR APPLY SOMETHING EXPEDITED GIVEN HOW RAPIDLY THE SITUATION IS EVOLVING. THEY'RE ALSO WONDERING WHAT EXACTLY THIS WILL BE EARMARKED FOR THIS MONEY. IT'S ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT THE ONTARIO PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT HAS PROVIDED 4 MILLION DOLLARS SPECIFICALLY TO FOOD AND SUPPLIES FOR THESE FIRST NATIONS IN THE PROVINCE. BUT, AGAIN, THAT'S 130-ODD FIRST NATIONS IN THIS PROVINCE, STEVE.

Steve says NOW, NICK, I WANT YOU TO HELP US GET INSIDE THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES THAT THESE FIRST NATIONS HAVE TO GO THROUGH RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, BIG CITIES HAVE THEIR KINDS OF BIG DECISIONS TO MAKE AND FIRST NATIONS HAVE THEIR BIG DECISIONS TO MAKE. AND WITH THE SPRING COMING, YOU KNOW, VERY SOON AND PRESUMINGLY FLOODING GOING TO BE HAPPENING IN SOME AREAS, THESE AREAS HAVE GOT TO DECIDE I GUESS WHETHER THEY WANT TO STAY AND RISK THE FLOODING OR LEAVE AND GET AWAY FROM THE FLOODING BUT MAYBE CLOSER TO THE COVID-19... I DON'T KNOW. YOU TELL US HOW ARE THEY THINKING ABOUT ALL OF THIS RIGHT NOW?

Nick says WELL, STEVE THEY ARE GOING TO BE HAVING A CONFERENCE CALL TO DISCUSS THESE MATTERS. BUT, YEAH, THE... AS OUR FORMER COLLEAGUE CLAUDE SHARMA REPORTED LAST YEAR, COMMUNITIES LIKE KASHECHEWAN HAVE IN THE PAST DEALT WITH FLOODING IN THE SPRING WHICH MEANS THEY HAVE TO EVACUATE THEIR WHOLE COMMUNITY TO PLACES LIKE TIMMINS WHICH RIGHT NOW HAS ITS FIRST CASE OF COVID-19. SO THIS IS AN INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT DECISION TO MAKE. YOU KNOW, DO WE EVACUATE OUR COMMUNITIES AND RISK COVID-19 SPREADING AMONG PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY AT RISK... AT A HIGHER RISK OF BEING IMMUNO-COMPROMISED. PEOPLE WHO ALREADY HAVE HIGHER RISKS OF CHRONIC ILLNESS? THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, DO WE ALLOW OUR COMMUNITIES TO STAY IN AREAS THAT ARE GOING TO BE FLOODED? YOU KNOW, IT'S HARD TO SAY WHAT THE FLOODING IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE THIS YEAR. BUT, YOU KNOW, GRAND CHIEF SOLOMON CALLED THIS A DOUBLE WHAMMY. AND IT'S HARD TO DISAGREE WITH HIM.

Steve says VERY DIFFICULT SITUATION. NICK I HAVE 30 SECONDS LEFT AND MAYBE WE CAN TAKE THAT TIME TO TALK ABOUT INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS WHO MAY BE STUCK AT VARIOUS POST-SECONDARY INSTITUTIONS IN ONTARIO AND WHAT THEY'RE THINKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW.

Nick says I HAVE LOOKED AT THIS PROVINCE-WIDE, STEVE. THERE ARE ABOUT JUST UNDER 170,000 INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS IN THIS PROVINCE ACCORDING TO THE MINISTRY OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES AND THERE ARE OVER 700,000 IN THIS COUNTRY. EACH ONE RIGHT... EACH INDIVIDUAL RIGHT NOW IS MONITORING THEIR UNIQUE SITUATION. WHETHER OR NOT THEY RISK INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL OR IF THEY SELF-ISOLATE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY. THIS IS AN ONGOING SITUATION BUT MANY UNIVERSITIES ARE ALREADY OFFERING RESIDENTS SPACE FOR THESE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS. I KNOW LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY HAS OFFERED THIS. BUT, AGAIN, EVERYTHING IS MOVING SO QUICKLY, STEVE THAT WE'RE STILL LOOKING AT HOW EACH UNIVERSITY IS RESPONDING TO THIS.

Steve says I KNOW AT LAURENTIAN, FOR EXAMPLE WHERE I HAVE THE HONOUR OF BEING CHANCELLOR THEY STARTED UP A GO-FUND-ME SITUATION THERE TO HELP RAISE SOME MONEY TO HELP THESE KIDS WITH THE TRANSITION OVER TIME. BECAUSE, OF COURSE, THEY'RE GOING TO BE EVEN LONE LONELIER THAN MOST GIVEN THEY'RE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY. NICK GOOD TALKING TO YOU KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN AND BE SAFE IN OUR NORTHEASTERN ONTARIO HUB, OKAY?

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Nick says THANK YOU VERY MUCH, STEVE. BE SAFE, TOO.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."
Then, it changes again to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Steve says AND JUST A REMINDER THAT ALL OF OUR ONTARIO HUBS JOURNALISTS WILL BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR COVID-19 STORIES WHETHER THEY'RE IN THUNDER BAY, LONDON, KINGSTON OR OTTAWA WHERE OUR ONTARIO HUBS ARE LOCATED. SO, REMEMBER, GO TO tvo.org ANYTIME YOU LIKE FOR COVID-19 UPDATES FROM ACROSS THE PROVINCE.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

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