Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer, said “about 90 per cent” of COVID-19 infections from the N.J. Macpherson school outbreak in Yellowknife are in youth with the remaining being household contacts. There are still 47 positive COVID-19 cases and three presumptive cases related to the outbreak.
“There have been numerous public exposure (notices) and over 1,000 people identified as contacts,” Kandola told reporters in a Friday press conference.
“We have not identified new infections emerging in people not connected to the current school outbreak. My assessment is that we’re not experiencing community transmission, we are however on the brink of community transmission and we are monitoring the situation closely.”
Contacts and their household members must all isolate, Dr. Kandola said. She advised one parent instead of both isolating with an infected child while “perhaps one parent can live somewhere else.”
Dr. Kandola also said ideally COVID-related contacts isolate in a room with a private bathroom and infected individuals don medical grade masks while indoors. She also suggested families could separate rooms for those isolating “by hanging sheets.”
Dr. Kandola said that only those symptomatic or contacts of COVID-19 cases will be tested at this time.
She continued to advocate for all eligible residents to get vaccinated as it is the best defence in fighting COVID-19.
Dr. Kandola said that the N.J. Macpherson cluster of COVID-19 cases may be related to the April cluster of cases in Yellowknife.
When asked by reporters if there was a connection Dr. Kandola said “what we do know based on our reverse contact tracing on the cases we have resulting from the N.J Macpherson outbreak we do have reason to believe there was exposure to a case that was in their infectious period.”
Dr. Kandola said her team is investigating further but that was all the information she was willing to provide.
Darren Campbell, manager of COVID communications with Health and Social Services, clarified in an email that “there is no evidence yet that links the N.J. Macpherson School outbreak to the previous Yellowknife cluster at this time.”
The previous April cluster was linked to a case of travel and triggered an exposure notice at Taste of Saigon and St. Patrick High School.
Tu Nedhé – Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn later came forward admitting him and a family member were the ones infected with COVID-19. This news has since triggered a cascade of political fallout for Norn.
On May 6, the NWT began vaccinating youth and to Dr. Kandola’s knowledge, “we are the first jurisdiction in Canada and possibly the world to begin vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds.”
Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, territorial medical director, said that while she did not have exact numbers on how may doses were administered yet, she did say 504 appointments were booked up within two hours. She said this was “encouraging to see.”
Pegg said there is another youth vaccine clinic coming to Yellowknife that will take place next Wednesday, but bookings are not open yet.
Behchokǫ̀ is the only non-Yellowknife community to get a youth vaccination clinic and that will be taking place on Tuesday, May 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents can call the health centre for more information.
Dr. Pegg said that forward thinking and planning is what will allow the NWT to deliver the Pfizer vaccine in a timely fashion.
“Back when Pfizer was the only vaccine that was approved in Canada, we did start efforts to procure storage freezers and transport freezers in the event we would need them,” she said.
According to Health Canada the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine is recommended to be stored at -70 C.
Dr. Pegg said her team is trained and has a plan for ensuring the vaccine stays at the appropriate temperature and is delivered.
Dr. Kandola said that that new information on delivering the Pfizer vaccine to more NWT communities will be coming next week.