The NWT’s chief public health officer declared a Covid-19 outbreak at Yellowknife’s NJ Macpherson School with one confirmed case and another four considered “probable.”
The infection was “not related to travel outside the Northwest Territories,” Dr Kami Kandola said, though she did not confirm community spread or use the phrase in a late-Saturday news release first published by Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland.
NJ Macpherson will move to remote learning for two weeks from Monday, May 3.
Dr Kandola said she was “suspending all organized child and youth extra-curricular activities (sports, arts, other) until further notice.”
On Sunday morning, her office clarified: “Child and youth activities refers to extra-curricular activities that are organized though schools or other community groups that have regularly scheduled meeting times. The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer also advises against more spontaneous group gatherings at this time. This refers to Yellowknife only. This does not include daycare and day homes for anyone not required to self-isolate.”
Affected residents considered contacts in the cases were being called by public health officials throughout Saturday and into Sunday.
In two instances, the chief public health officer said, not all contacts could be identified. As a result, exposure advisories have been issued for two locations.
If you were in the Quiznos restaurant at 314 Old Airport Road on Thursday, April 29 from 6:15pm to 7:15pm, notify public health immediately. There was “no ongoing risk of exposure,” Kandola said.
If you were at NJ Macpherson during regular school hours on any day from Monday, April 26 to Thursday, April 29, you should notify public health immediately and isolate for 14 days from Saturday, May 1. You should also monitor for Covid-19 symptoms and get tested immediately if any symptoms show.
Household members who are fully vaccinated – meaning more than two weeks have passed since their second vaccine dose – “can safely work if no one in the household is symptomatic or identified as a close contact,” Kandola said.
Hundreds of people were understood to be heading into isolation as contacts, including all students who had attended NJ Macpherson on any of those four days and any of their parents who are not fully vaccinated. The GNWT did not immediately provide the full number of contacts identified to date. A spokesperson said the investigation was ongoing and the number was regularly changing.
In a brief statement early on Sunday morning, NJ Macpherson School said Kandola’s office was “working closely with school administrators and Yellowknife public health staff to ensure that the appropriate public health response is in effect.”
The individual with the confirmed case is isolating and doing well, the territory said. Of the other four probable cases, two are presumptive positives having tested positive using rapid tests. All four are awaiting laboratory confirmation. They are “closely connected to the confirmed case,” Kandola said.
Saturday’s declaration of an outbreak is the first in Yellowknife, though outbreaks have been declared at several remote work camps in the NWT in recent months. In each case, the outbreak was fairly swiftly contained and numbers of cases rarely exceeded a handful.
“Now is not the time to panic,” Premier Caroline Cochrane said in an overnight statement posted to her Facebook page. She warned residents to be prepared for the possibility of more cases being confirmed in the coming days, and urged them to follow existing public health guidelines.
“Stay positive, stay safe,” the premier wrote.
Are you affected by this announcement?
If you are now isolating as a result of Saturday’s advisory, or are otherwise affected, let us know about the impact it’s having on you and your family and how you’re coping. You can reach us at the Cabin Radio newsroom using this form.