A sign welcoming people to Fort Good Hope at the community's airport. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio
The NWT government says two cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Sahtu – one in Norman Wells and one in Fort Good Hope – and community spread may be taking place.
Five more cases in Fort Good Hope are considered probable, the territory’s chief public health officer said in an advisory issued shortly before midnight. That news followed a day of conjecture about the virus in the community.
Sahtu MLA Paulie Chinna had twice sought to reassure residents of Fort Good Hope after rumours of Covid-19 in the region began. On both Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening, she told residents no cases had yet been confirmed and rapid testing was on the way.
However, in her later advisory, Dr Kami Kandola said community spread appeared to be happening and more cases were likely.
“The investigation is in the very early stages. However, based on community exposures in Fort Good Hope, there is concern that these infections represent community transmission,” Dr Kandola said.
“It is believed that Covid-19 has likely spread further among people in the community.”
All gatherings in Fort Good Hope should be avoided if possible, the NWT government warned, including a recommendation that there be “no gatherings of any kind in homes or in public places” unless required for the provision of care, including childcare.
Kandola said a hand games event from August 5-9 had been identified as an exposure site. Anyone not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 who attended those hand games or was in Fort Good Hope during that period is being told to isolate for 10 days, starting from the day they last attended the event or left the community.
If that applies to you, you should also contact your local health centre to arrange a Covid-19 test.
If you are fully vaccinated and were at the hand games or in Fort Good Hope between those dates, or if you’re currently in Fort Good Hope, you should monitor for symptoms for the same 10-day period and arrange a Covid-19 test if any symptoms appear.
Kandola confirmed a rapid response team is heading to Fort Good Hope. All non-essential travel to and from the community should be avoided, she said.
The chief public health officer’s concern appeared to focus on the prospect of community spread in Fort Good Hope. No similar warning was issued for Norman Wells, nor any other NWT community, though Kandola recommended vigilance across the territory and reiterated her belief that residents should use masks in indoor public places.
The variant of Covid-19 behind the latest cases has not yet been identified. The required laboratory work usually means a delay of several days before the variant is known with certainty.
Chinna had earlier tried to calm residents after speculation about Covid-19’s presence in the community grew throughout Saturday. “According to our last update there are no confirmed cases in Fort Good Hope,” the MLA, who is also the NWT government’s housing minister, said in a short Facebook post on Saturday afternoon. In a second post, shortly after 10pm on Saturday, Chinna said that remained unchanged. Kandola’s advisory was issued an hour later.
Until this point, the Sahtu had been the only region of the NWT yet to record a single Covid-19 case in a resident, though two had been recorded among non-residents working there.
However, the Sahtu has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the territory.
So far, 62 percent of Sahtu residents aged 18 and over are considered fully vaccinated, according to territorial government figures. Only the Tłı̨chǫ, at 58 percent, has lower uptake.
Yellowknife, the South Slave, the Dehcho, and the Beaufort Delta all stand at 70-percent full vaccination or higher among adults.