Flu season is about to join Covid-19. How is the NWT preparing?

Last modified: August 17, 2020 at 9:11am

The NWT’s Department of Health says it has ordered extra flu shots and more Covid-19 testing machines ready for the fall flu season, while full-time, dedicated enforcement staff are being hired.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said her department is working on modelling how Covid-19 and flu may combine in the territory over the coming months. Projections will be made public once finished, Kandola said.

“Rapid testing is one of our top priorities,” Kandola told reporters on Friday afternoon, reiterating the territory’s view that speedy tests – taking one hour or less – are key to keeping residents safe.


The territory currently uses GeneEpert and Rapid BioFire to test for Covid-19, which can each produce results in 45 minutes. However, supplies needed to operate those machines have been running low under the strain of unprecedented global demand.

“We have these platforms and we’ll be getting more until we can rapidly test people who have Covid symptoms and may not necessarily have an exposure, but need to be tested so they can go back to work and school or daycare safely,” said Kandola.

“No one anticipated Covid-19 would last this long. We are going into the fall putting our response to Covid-19 as a high priority, not only for Protect NWT but also from a compliance angle.”

Conrad Baetz, who leads the NWT’s pandemic compliance and enforcement team, said the territorial government still relies on staff borrowed from various departments to form its enforcement team – but that is changing, allowing those staff to return to their day-to-day duties.

In the pandemic’s opening months, NWT government employees like wildlife and lands officers were redeployed to become public health officers on a temporary basis.


“We are moving in the direction of hiring full-time casual compliance individuals in some of the regional offices that will be focusing solely on compliance under the public health orders,” Baetz said.

GNWT orders extra flu shots

The arrival of flu season is expected to complicate efforts to contain Covid-19 across North America – making it harder to tell exactly what is causing a patient’s sickness and increasing pressure on healthcare networks as larger numbers of people seek Covid-19 tests.

“Getting a flu shot has never been more important this year for a number of reasons,” said Kandola, noting a Covid-19 vaccine almost certainly will not be ready for the coming flu season.

“We know that we typically see more common colds, we start to see flu activity, and we start to see a number of other respiratory infections.


“If you do get your flu shot, it’s one less respiratory infection you don’t have to worry about,” she said. “If you do get flu-like symptoms, the last thing you want to be stressing about is: ‘Is this flu or is this Covid?’”

Reducing the circulation of flu and colds to a minimum will reduce “background noise” for healthcare professionals, Kandola said, making it easier for the territory to focus on Covid-19.