One new confirmed and three probable cases of Covid-19 were announced on Friday by the territorial government in relation to the cluster of cases connected to the NJ Macpherson School outbreak in Yellowknife.
The outbreak now has a total of 48 confirmed cases associated with it.
A combined four cases at Norman Wells’ Imperial Oil site and the Ekati Mine puts the NWT’s total at 52 active cases of Covid-19.
One new exposure warning was announced for the musical theatre class at Bella Dance Academy on April 29 from 6pm to 7:15pm. People who were in that location should self-isolate immediately for 14 days and arrange for testing.
By Friday, exposure warnings had been removed from six locations.
The territorial government said on Friday evening that of the 1,269 tests done as of May 1, 20 have come back positive for the B117 variant – called the UK variant because it was discovered there – that causes Covid-19.
Ninety-two percent of cases have been found in kids under the age of 18, with the average age being eight years old. Sixty-eight percent of cases have been symptomatic.
At a press conference on Friday morning, Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said the remainder of cases were “adult household contacts.”
She added “pretty much all” cases in the NJ Macpherson cluster as of May 6 are directly related to attendance at the school, not subsequent exposure sites.
Dr Kandola said no new infections had turned up in people affected by exposure advisories but not connected to the school.
“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.
Kandola also provided the most information yet regarding the likely source of the initial NJ Macpherson case.
“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 that involved the B117 variant.
She added Yellowknife was “not experiencing community transmission” but remained “on the brink.”
In the community of Behchokǫ̀, more Covid-19 measures are being taken, such as the installation of wastewater testing and setting up more vaccine clinics.
The community is also setting up an “information station” on the Rae Access Road near the Highway 3 junction.
More vaccine clinics for eligible adults and youth will take place next week on May 10 and 11, respectively.
On Friday, Dene National Chief Norman Yakayela called on members of Dene communities to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“We need to have a shield against Covid-19. It’s here right now, and we need to push back. The only way I know to push back on Covid-19 is through the vaccine,” he said at a press conference.