The NWT government says a new positive Covid-19 test – in a different employee to an earlier false positive – has been reported at the Gahcho Kué diamond mine.
The Friday announcement follows another worker’s test being declared a false positive earlier in the week.
The Friday case is a confirmed positive, the NWT government said in an advisory issued shortly after 12pm, and is a Yellowknife resident.
Their positive test came as a group of 18 workers – who travelled with the initial false positive – were all retested at Gahcho Kué, where they have been isolating since the first report of Covid-19 at the mine.
“As a result of additional measures taken to retest all the group of workers, a positive result in a different individual was reported,” the territory said in its advisory.
“They had remained in isolation while waiting for the second round of testing. No additional exposures occurred during this interim period.”
Public health officials are investigating to determine potential contacts of the new positive test, the territory said.
This is the NWT’s ninth confirmed Covid-19 case, of which four are active. (The territory did not, unlike other recent cases, label this one a presumptive positive.)
“At this time, Gahcho Kué mine is conducting a review of their current sampling processes,” the territory stated on Friday.
“Public health appreciates Gahcho Kué mine’s work to support this investigation and keep our community safe.”
Why the test is considered confirmed
Mike Westwick, a spokesperson for the chief public health officer, said the new case was considered a confirmed positive as the test had been sent directly to Stanton Territorial Hospital for analysis.
Stanton’s equipment has been validated for confirmatory positive results, he said, meaning positive results produced at that lab are considered definitive.
Other tests at Gahcho Kué earlier in the week were first sent to the nearby Diavik mine’s on-site lab, said Westwick, where equipment has not been similarly validated. Positive tests at the Diavik lab still require second, confirmatory tests.
“While it is natural to feel anxious right now, we all must remember that it was inevitable our territory would get more cases. We are not, and were never, immune to the effects of this pandemic,” said Dr Kami Kandola, the territory’s chief public health officer, by email.
“We need to normalize that fact. Because to respond effectively, all must stay calm, stay aware of symptoms, and take precautions – no matter where we are or what the local Covid-19 situation is.
“The best thing we can do as a territory is channel the perfectly natural anxieties we are feeling into productive steps to reduce our own risk when we go about our daily lives. And a good way to do that is to stick to the fundamental public health practices we know work to keep us all safer.”
Asked if the new case may be an instance of community spread, Kandola’s office said: “It is too early to know what the nature of this transmission is. We are working hard to get all the information required to characterize the risk to our communities, and we will report back as soon as we have additional information.”
In a statement, Gahcho Kué operator De Beers said three other employees had been placed into quarantine as a result of contact tracing at the mine and would also be tested.
“Due to mandatory mask use and other measures, it is believed that the chance of transmission at the mine is extremely low,” De Beers said.
“To date we have successfully conducted over 2,400 tests at Gahcho Kué without incident since May. The circumstances around this matter are of deep concern and we are reviewing testing protocols to identify how this case was not detected earlier.”