After a year and a half of no COVID-19 cases in Tuktoyaktuk, Jackie Jacobson says the current outbreak has left the community feeling like “a deer in the headlights.”
Making sure the community sticks together is the best way through the ongoing outbreak, says the Nunakput MLA.
Extra nurses and testing machines have arrived in the community; this morning, the Canadian Rangers were activated to help support residents with deliveries.
The latest public health numbers show Tuktoyaktuk has 103 of the 139 total active cases in the NWT.
That’s grown from the first four-case cluster that public health announced barely a week ago. The source of the outbreak is still not clear, but Jacobson says that’s not important right now.
“We’re not pointing fingers, we’re here to support each other,” he says. “Personally, I don’t care where it comes from… we got to get through this because if we start trying to point fingers, it’s not good.”
The community has been under a containment order since Nov. 9, and Jacobson says many community members are concerned about work.
“The biggest worry is people are not able to go to work and make the funds to buy their groceries and pay their bills,” he says.
He adds that leaders are working with local organizations either to support residents — like the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation food hampers — or defer payments with housing or the Northwest Territories Power Corporation.
“(It’s) to try and alleviate the pressure on them because it’s the last thing they need to be worrying about right now.”
After the announcement of the first cases, the Jason Jacobson Youth Centre decided to close until further notice. Mangilaluk School also closed and has since been turned into an isolation centre.
On Tuesday afternoon, public health officials sent an advisory saying cases continue to increase.
“The evidence suggests that the community has not yet reached the peak of the wave of infections in the community,” reads the advisory. “Residents that test positive for COVID-19 that share housing with others are encouraged to use the isolation centre to protect their family or friends from further spread of COVID-19 infections.”
Dr. James Talbot, the deputy chief public health officer, has extended the public health order to 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 29. Health officials are discouraging non-essential travel in and out of Tuktoyaktuk and reminding residents that masks are mandatory in all public spaces.
While it’s been a “scary” time, Jacobson is thanking local leaders for their work in managing the outbreaks in the region.
Inuvik stabilizing, kids to go back to school
In that same advisory, officials say the number of cases in Inuvik has “stabilized and active case numbers are not rising as quickly as they were at the start of the outbreak in the community.”
There are currently 19 active cases in the community.
The public health order in Inuvik is also being updated to allow students to go back to school.
The new order starts at 5 p.m. today and runs until 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 22; students can return to the classroom on Thursday, Nov. 18.
However, extracurricular activities are still considered high risk and not allowed.
Updated Nov. 16 at 4:55 p.m. with updated active case numbers.