Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake are under a containment order closing businesses and banning gatherings as the number of Sahtu Covid-19 cases rises.
On Sunday evening, the NWT government said there were now three confirmed and 10 probable cases of Covid-19 linked to each other. Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said “strong, decisive action” was needed.
Fort Good Hope has one confirmed case, while five more are considered probable. Colville Lake has two confirmed cases. Délı̨nę has one probable case. Yellowknife has four probable cases.
Dr Kandola’s office said a case previously identified in Norman Wells was in an out-of-territory worker and is considered separate. Meanwhile, a new case in Hay River in another out-of-territory worker is also not considered related.
The containment order for Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake, which will last for 10 days at least, means residents of those communities will break the law if they gather indoors in any number, other than to provide essential care or childcare. They cannot gather outdoors with anyone from another household.
Non-essential businesses must close. Essential businesses – grocery stores, gas stations, and health or childcare facilities – can stay open but with no more than 10 people allowed entry at once. Daycares can only open for the children of essential workers.
Offices can remain open but with the same 10-person limit and physical distancing.
“While not part of the containment order, non-essential travel into and out of the communities of Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake is strongly discouraged,” an advisory from Kandola’s office stated.
Kandola said anyone not fully vaccinated who was in Fort Good Hope or Colville Lake between August 5 and August 9 must isolate for 10 days from Sunday, August 15, and arrange for Covid-19 testing. A hand games event in Fort Good Hope on those dates has been identified as an exposure site.
Anyone fully vaccinated who was in either community on any of those dates must arrange testing if any symptoms occur.
“Public health has assessed the risk for further transmission in Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake as high due to a significant number of close contacts for confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the hand games event,” Kandola said.
“With a large numbers of unvaccinated contacts in these communities, there is a higher chance of infection in all residents, but especially those unvaccinated.
“While contact tracing and targeted testing is ongoing, the large number of contacts in the community requires strong, decisive action to bring the situation under control.”
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.
The variant of Covid-19 responsible for the Sahtu-related cases has not been identified.
Kandola said a rapid response team has now arrived in the Sahtu and is “supporting local health officials on contact tracing and targeted testing to identify any potential exposures to, and cases of, Covid-19 in both communities.”
Containment has been used in the NWT once before, to address a series of cases in Fort Liard in January. That order lasted for two weeks.
The territory has now recorded 134 Covid-19 cases among its residents and a further 46 among non-residents since the pandemic began in March 2020.