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No exposure risk at St Joe’s, chief public health officer says

Last modified: October 21, 2020 at 7:55pm


The NWT’s chief public health officer said on Wednesday evening there is no risk to anyone at a Yellowknife school after a letter related to Covid-19 was circulated.

Dr Kami Kandola said the letter, which was not published by her office but by École St Joseph School, referred to a person who had contact with a Gahcho Kué mine employee initially suspected of having Covid-19.

That employee’s second Covid-19 test came back negative, and their case is now believed to have been a false positive.

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Kandola told reporters both the employee and the person in contact with them had tested negative.

“There is no exposure risk at St Joe’s,” Kandola said.

“This letter was related to a contact of the person at the mine. The person at the mine does not Covid, the contact does not have Covid. That’s why I want to reassure everyone.”

The letter was dated October 21, appeared on the school’s headed paper, and bore the name of principal Don Reid.

It stated two staff members at the YWCA – which operates after-school programs at St Joe’s – “have been in direct contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.”

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The letter added those staff members were isolating and being tested, and asked parents and students to keep monitoring themselves for symptoms – standard advice that has been issued since schools in the territory reopened.

Kandola more than once underlined the fact that the “index case” (or first person involved, in this case the Gahcho Kué employee) had since received a second, negative test and now appeared to represent a false positive.

She said she had not spoken directly to St Joe’s and a “miscommunication” seemed to have taken place.

The chief public health officer went on to suggest she wished the letter had not been sent out, appearing to fear it may cause unnecessary angst as Covid-19 concern rises in Yellowknife. Two separate cases of Covid-19 in the city were confirmed on the same day.

“You need to contact me directly prior to sending out letters or advice,” Kandola said, appealing to organizations in general.

“I can give direction or a risk assessment and say, ‘This is not warranted.’ Please do not send direction or advice on your own, please clarify with myself.

“I would know what the actual risk is, and at this moment there is no risk to the kids at St Joe’s.”

Nobody answered the phone at the school or YWCA as Kandola’s briefing ended, a little after 7pm.

The YWCA’s after-school program had, earlier in the day, sent an email to parents and guardians making them aware that the two staff had been asked to isolate.

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