In a press conference Monday morning, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola urged residents not to panic amid the new cluster of cases in Yellowknife.
Dr. Kandola said there are 90 contacts related to confirmed cases from the Yellowknife cluster. She said many are isolating, 85 have been tested and await their results. Dr. Kandola’s office is also waiting for test results if confirmed cases are of a variant of concern.
“This is, more than anything else, a safety measure,” she said.
She reassured media that the NWT has control of the situation.
“I want to assure the public that we are prepared for this and that our office and regional health authorities are implementing processes and procedures as we should be,” she said.
Kandola did say, however, that she did not advise the closing of any institutions. Łutselk’e Dene First Nation recently shut down their only school as a precautionary measure, Chief Daryl Marlowe told CBC last week. The community put out a warning advising members to not travel to Yellowknife. Fort Providence also implemented travel warnings and a three-day isolation period for residents coming from Yellowknife.
She is also requesting communities talk to public health and “would recommend they talk to us and we can explain why we would not recommend certain measures and what our guidance is.”
Contacts identified in the Yellowknife cluster were directly related to St. Patrick High School and a gathering at the sand pits on April 16 and 17.
Dr. Kandola said parents are receiving detailed directions Monday on how to navigate self-isolation with their children.
“If you have not been notified, you should go about your daily routine as you did last week and the week before that,” she said.
Dr. Kandola said her office tries to maintain the privacy of institutions when there are positive cases and an exposure notice is given out only when they are unable to track down all contacts.
When it came to St. Patrick, Dr. Kandola said her team knew exactly who the contacts were and times for potential exposure, and contacted them immediately. Administrators from the school independently decided to come forward.
Dr. Kandola also refused to comment on specific details of confirmed cases. This cluster of cases comes after MLA Steve Norn came forward last week admitting him and a family member tested positive with COVID-19.
Over the weekend Premier Caroline Cochrane released a statement calling for compassion relating to the current cluster of cases.
“This is a situation that we hoped we would be able to avoid during this pandemic. However, that is not the case. And while we are not out of the woods just yet – this unfortunate situation is a reminder that residents need to continue to get vaccinated,” she stated.
Cochrane said that no matter what health orders must be followed and “I want to be clear that there are consequences when people don’t follow them.”
Emerging Wisely plan
The office of the chief public health officer will also be delaying any amendments to the Emerging Wisely plan to ease health restrictions to the end of May. Previously, the plan was going to be updated at the end of April.
She said, “With eight cases in the NWT in one week, this is a time to focus on containment. We can also give the rest of Canada time to catch up and get the third wave of outbreaks under control.”
“This week we’re containing contacts, and seeing if there is community spread, if anything we don’t want to go back but definitely not a time to go forward,” Dr. Kandola said in reference to Emerging Wisely.
Dr. Kandola said her office is taking into account the third wave passing through parts of Canada, is looking at Canada-wide vaccine roll out and is staying vigilant given an increase of travellers coming into the territory when addressing health restrictions.
The chief public health officer continued to discourage unnecessary travel and encouraged residents to do their part to prevent COVID-19 through regular hand washing, wearing masks, keeping six feet of distance and getting vaccinated.