The Northwest Territories has confirmed its second case of Covid-19, a person self-isolated at home in Inuvik and said to be “doing well.”
The NWT’s chief public health officer said the individual, who was not identified, had travelled to British Columbia. They returned to Inuvik on March 21 and went into immediate self-isolation, as ordered.
“They developed symptoms five days after their return and showed no symptoms during their flight back. The entire household has been under mandatory isolation along with them since March 21,” read a statement from the NWT government.
“They are doing well with mild symptoms and it is not expected hospitalization will be required.”
At the same time, Dr Kami Kandola – the NWT’s chief public health officer – said the territory had extended its public health emergency by a further 14 days.
The news came as the worldwide toll of deaths directly attributed to Covid-19 surpassed the NWT’s population, at more than 45,000.
The territory’s second case follows a positive test recorded by a Yellowknife resident more than 10 days ago.
Dr Kandola’s office said the self-isolation of the individual and their household “represents an example all residents must follow in the coming weeks in complying with public health orders to limit the spread of this virus, in our territory.”
The community involved in this case, Inuvik, was identified because its size allows for “appropriate privacy protection,” the NWT government said.
Kandola said contact tracing – the process of finding people who may have had contact with an infected person, and notifying them – begins 48 hours before an individual is symptomatic.
As the Inuvik patient flew home five days before developing symptoms, those on the flight will not be contacted. (The flight details have not been released.)
The first person had 17 contacts, all of whom were tested and all of whose tests came back negative, Kandola said.
Travel, not community transmission
Both of the territory’s Covid-19 cases to date have been traced to travel, not community transmission. Community transmission is when cases move from person to person without any connection to travel or a known infected person.
“When we declared a public health emergency and restricted entry into the NWT … it was a proactive and aggressive measure to be able to test people with a travel history,” said Kandola on Wednesday.
“We’ve been testing people in the NWT, checking to see if there is community transmission as a surveillance tool to make sure we are not having it. Those tests have been negative.
“Our focus is identifying Covid-19 cases that are entering the NWT through travel. We can’t prevent Covid-19 cases coming in, but what we can do is put in measures – such as mandatory self-isolation – so we can identify these cases, isolate them, trace their contacts, and minimize the spread further into the community.”
More than 2,000 people in the NWT have so far submitted self-isolation plans under territorial travel restrictions and been ordered into mandatory 14-day isolation.
Kandola said the Inuvik patient had demonstrated exactly what returning residents need to do.
“In Inuvik, kudos to that household,” said Kandola. “They followed the full direction of the chief public health officer. They went on mandatory self-isolation, they had minimal contact with the outside world.
“When they had to get tested, they called ahead. They returned back to their household and stayed isolated until the test results occurred.
“This is how we want to roll it out. If you’re returning to the NWT, no matter where you have been, self-isolate and – if you develop symptoms – call ahead to your healthcare provider. Then return back to your home and stay there until you get your test results.”
‘Aggressive’ testing continues
So far, more than 1,100 Covid-19 tests have been carried out in the NWT. The territory says its testing strategy is “aggressive.”
“The Northwest Territories is testing at a higher rate than almost anywhere in Canada,” the chief public health officer’s statement declared on Wednesday, adding the tests remained “the territory’s strongest weapon in tracking and containing the virus.”
Alongside the two positive tests there have been 979 confirmed negative tests. A further 130 test results are pending.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Kandola said her office had heard about the second positive test immediately before a scheduled news conference. An advisory had been issued as soon as the patient was notified, Kandola said.
She urged residents to maintain current restrictions “for the foreseeable future” and warned them, in the strongest terms, to stop gathering.
Kandola said reports continued to reach her of people gathering for events like funerals, including Elders at risk of serious complications or death from Covid-19. She implored residents to stop any kind of gathering at all, immediately.
“We are in this together and it is important we keep our solidarity as we work to limit the spread,” she said.
“As long as we are united, I know we will get through this together.”