Is there Covid-19 in sewage near you? The NWT government is now sharing data from wastewater testing for the disease in six communities.
On Wednesday, health minister Julie Green said results from sewage monitoring in those six communities are now available on the territory’s Covid-19 dashboard.
Data is available for Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik, Norman Wells and Yellowknife. Sewage in those communities is routinely monitored for signs of Covid-19.
Results tend to be available about a week after the samples were collected.
Sampling sewage doesn’t guarantee all cases will be caught and can’t provide any information about who exactly has Covid-19, but is used by the territory as an additional means of monitoring communities for signs of the disease.
Green called it an “early warning system.”
In the series, the two explain what residents can expect before, during and after vaccination.
To date, 13,578 residents, or 39 percent of the territory’s adult population, have been given their first dose of the Moderna vaccine. A total of 579 residents have also received their second dose.
Green said the territory still plans to meet its goal of vaccinating 75 percent of its eligible population by the end of March, despite nationwide vaccine delivery delays.
“The NWT is still leading the country in the delivery of first doses,” she said.
“Since the beginning of our vaccine rollout, we knew that the allotment and the delivery of doses were both outside our control. Our team has built a flexible vaccine schedule to account for shipment delays, weather, and other logistical challenges.”
Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said the territory expects to receive its fourth shipment of the Moderna vaccine next week but could not yet confirm the number of doses that will include.
Teachers to get vaccine priority
Several MLAs have called for teachers to be deemed essential workers, raising concerns about their access to the vaccine and rapid testing for Covid-19, along with travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements and costs.
On Wednesday, Kandola said teachers and other front-line workers will be prioritized for the vaccine in the territory’s larger centres.
Kandola said, however, that even if teachers are deemed essential workers, they will still have to isolate for 14 days after travel when returning to the territory. That’s to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak in schools, she said, noting anyone under the age of 18 is not currently eligible for the vaccine in the NWT.
Premier Caroline Cochrane cautioned that even as more residents get vaccinated, people still need to follow public health orders and recommendations to protect others.
As March break nears, Green reminded residents that non-essential travel outside the territory is not recommended. She noted transmission rates in areas outside the NWT are still high and variants of the virus have been identified.
“Let’s take time to see how much there is to do right here in the NWT. Get out on the land, go skating, go cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing. This is the best month in the North,” she said.
Green said those that do travel should be aware of the Covid-19 situation at their destination, noting the presence of significant Covid-19 outbreaks elsewhere in Canada.
Be ‘kind to each other,’ premier urges
Finally, Green and Cochrane acknowledged that many residents are feeling pandemic fatigue as the territory nears the one-year mark of Covid-19 restrictions.
Cochrane highlighted the importance of self-care and said anyone who is struggling should reach out to friends and family or contact the NWT Help Line.
“One of the lasting legacies of Covid-19 will be how we treated each other. I encourage all residents of the NWT to support those who are having a difficult time,” she said.
“We all play an important role to encourage a society where we can all talk more openly about how we’re feeling. We need to work together to effect change around the attitudes and the stigma that exists, and this starts with being kind to each other.”