Dr Kami Kandola speaks at a June 2021 news conference. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
There are now 23 confirmed or probable cases of Covid-19 “connected by travel or residence” to Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake, Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said on Monday.
Dr Kandola said a hand games event in Fort Good Hope between August 5 and August 9 was now considered a “superspreader event.” It’s not yet known how the first person with Covid-19 at that event contracted the virus in the first place.
One confirmed case and 15 probable cases are now reported in Fort Good Hope. Two confirmed cases are reported in Colville Lake and one probable infection was reported in Délı̨nę.
Outside the Sahtu, Yellowknife has four probable Covid-19 cases.
Hay River and Norman Wells each have one confirmed case, but those involve out-of-territory workers and are not considered related.
Kandola said there was now “a high risk of regional outbreak involving Sahtu communities connected by cultural travel.”
“This is community spread,” she told reporters at a Monday news conference. “There is definitely community spread in Fort Good Hope.
“We consider everyone in Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake has [been] exposed to Covid-19.”
A 10-day containment order was issued on Sunday for Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake. Non-essential travel into and out of those communities is strongly discouraged.
More travel, more importations
Kandola said there’s been a “dramatic quadrupling” of travel in and out of the territory, and with that comes more Covid-19 importations.
A symptomatic individual with Covid-19 is believed to have attended the hand games event and spread the virus to other participants, according to Kandola. She said the individual had not traveled outside the territory and it was not clear how they had contracted the virus.
Kandola said an investigation into the origin of the outbreak is ongoing and PCR tests will confirm what strains of Covid-19 are reported among the confirmed cases. She says they are likely to be the Delta variant.
“When you look at the dominant strain in Canada, approximately 90 percent, at least, are the Delta variant,” explained Kandola.
“What’s unique about it is it’s highly infectious, and typically from mean onset of exposure to symptoms is typically four days. And we’re seeing a number of the cases in that timeframe so it’s highly likely that this will be the Delta variant.”
Health minister Julie Green said though the territory has faced previous outbreaks, the current situation “is different than we faced in the past, as it’s quickly becoming a multi-community event and will likely place tremendous strain on our health system’s resources.”
Green told reporters on Monday she wanted to emphasize that “this is a serious situation.”
“I need residents to be on high alert and follow Dr Kandola’s measures and advice, while we work to determine the full impact and scope of the spread,” said the minister.
“Now is our time to intervene and reduce the impact this will have on individuals, communities, and on our health and social services system by taking actions as simple as wearing your masks and keeping your distance.”
The NWT’s medical director, Dr AnneMarie Pegg, said of the confirmed cases in the Sahtu, two cases have been transported out of the community. She said so far nobody involved has been hospitalized.