In April 2020, children in the northwestern NSW town of Wilcannia erected handmade signs along the Barrier Highway, urging travellers and truck drivers not to risk bringing COVID-19 into their tiny community.
"Please don't stop. You're dangerous to us," one read.
"It's too dangerous to stop in Wilcannia," read another.
Nearly 18 months later, Wilcannia's fears are being realised.
This small town on the banks of the Darling River, has 70 active cases of COVID-19, which roughly equates to one in every 10 residents battling the virus.
That is the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission anywhere in Australia.
The outbreak has been traced back to a funeral on August 13 when no public health orders were in place prohibiting such gatherings in regional NSW. It is now in lockdown, along with the rest of the state, but the damage is already being done.
"They just have body bags."
Like many regional communities, Wilcannia is a town in a precarious position.
Roughly 60 per cent of its residents are Indigenous; a population identified as more vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.
And many large family groups live together under one roof — ripe conditions for transmission of the highly virulent Delta variant of COVID-19.
This also makes isolating incredibly difficult.
Some who've tested positive have to stay in tents. And as cases grow, plans are in motion to transfer others to a nearby caravan park or a medi-hotel in Broken Hill — the nearest regional centre, some 200km away.
For those who need medical care, Wilcannia has just one tiny hospital, and one transport ventilator.
When a COVID-positive local, who is also suffering pneumonia, presented at emergency with breathing difficulties last Wednesday night, she was forced to wait outside in the cold for close to an hour before staff came out to assess her condition.
In videos posted to social media last week, Barkindji woman and Wilcannia local Monica Kerwin said it felt like Wilcannia had largely been ignored by authorities who have coordinated the state's pandemic response.
"They don't have a COVID plan here. They don't have ventilators," she said. "I think they just have body bags."
Even food supply has been an issue.