So far, “pretty-much all” cases in Yellowknife’s NJ Macpherson School Covid-19 cluster are directly related to attendance at the school, not subsequent exposure sites, the NWT’s chief public health officer said.
As of Thursday evening there were 47 confirmed and three probable cases related to this month’s outbreak. Dr Kami Kandola said 90 percent of those cases were in children and the remainder were “adult household contacts.”
Dr Kandola said no new infections had turned up in people affected by exposure advisories but not connected to the school.
“Pretty-much all of them are linked to NJ Macpherson – either people who attended during that previous week or their household contacts,” said Kandola, referring to the week of April 26-30 during which people at the school were exposed to Covid-19.
“In terms of exposure site notification … to date, we haven’t had any transmission in those sites but we know we are entering that critical time period between day five and seven from the exposure notifications,” she told reporters.
“We are asking people, if they do develop symptoms, to call public health. To date, there hasn’t been any transmission in those areas we marked as exposure notifications.”
Even so, anyone isolating as a result of exposure must complete 14 days’ isolation from the date of that exposure, Kandola said.
The chief public health officer also provided the most information yet regarding the likely source of the initial NJ Macpherson case. She had previously said that case was not connected to travel outside the NWT – as most of the territory’s prior cases had been.
“We do have reason to believe that there was exposure to a case that was during their infectious period,” said Kandola, referring to the source of the first NJ Macpherson case.
“We’re investigating that further. That’s all we can provide.”
The only known cases of Covid-19 with reported public exposures in the period immediately preceding this outbreak were those in a five-case April cluster in Yellowknife. Those involved the B117 or UK variant of the virus that causes Covid-19.
Kandola referred multiple times to the B117 variant on Friday in discussing the NJ Macpherson outbreak. Since last month, the NWT has assumed every case of Covid-19 is a variant of concern unless laboratory analysis proves otherwise.
Echoing a characterization of the outbreak she first gave on Monday, Kandola said Yellowknife was “not experiencing community transmission” but remained “on the brink.”
She expressed pride that the introduction of vaccines for youth aged 12 to 17 in the city may make the territory the first in Canada or even the world to open vaccination to that age group.
Sarah Sibley contributed reporting.