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Emergency outbreak reinforcements arrive in NWT

Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital
Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

A federal epidemiologist, five Canadian Red Cross nurses, and a number of Canadian Rangers have begun helping the NWT to bring its latest Covid-19 outbreak under control.

The territorial government last week appealed for emergency assistance from the federal government and Canadian Red Cross. On the weekend, federal ministers announced the Canadian Armed Forces would also intervene.

Kim Riles, chief executive of the NWT’s health authority, on Monday told Cabin Radio an initial group of six support staff had now arrived in the territory.

Separately, the CBC reported Canadian Rangers have begun work in Sahtu communities, taking on tasks like delivery of groceries and medication to people isolating.



In an email to Cabin Radio, NWT health minister Julie Green said eight Canadian Rangers had so far been deployed: two each in Délı̨nę, Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, and Tulita.

Green said Joint Task Force North was working on ways to support Colville Lake as no Canadian Rangers are available there. Additionally, some Rangers in the NWT have tested positive for Covid-19 and aren’t available to help.

The territorial government is also recruiting people to help supply people with goods while they isolate. As of Friday, almost 200 people had been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the current outbreak. Many dozens more are understood to be isolating as a result of exposure warnings in six communities.

“Right now, we are managing,” said Riles. “This is what we planned for. We have had plans in place. As it stands, we are managing to resource appropriately and are watching to see how the situation develops.”



Riles said the health authority had called for backup proactively last week, anticipating some time would be taken to respond to that request.

“We have a field epidemiologist who’s been deployed through the Public Health Agency of Canada,” she said, “and yesterday, five nurses from the Canadian Red Cross arrived here in Yellowknife. We’ve already got them on-site and beginning their orientation so they are able to deploy.”

Where exactly the nurses are deployed is still to be determined, Riles said. They will be trained to help testing and vaccination efforts, while those with acute care skills will be oriented at Yellowknife’s Stanton Territorial Hospital in case hospitalizations related to the outbreak rise.

The field epidemiologist is “a huge asset for contact tracing and containment,” Riles said. She described the epidemiologist’s role as investigating the outbreak, mapping patterns related to Covid-19’s spread, and using data to tell the health authority where to direct its efforts.

“Right now, we’re putting our attention toward redirecting staff to make sure communities have what they need on the ground to be able to manage the outbreaks as they’re evolving,” said Riles.

“Concurrent to that, we have our hospital system in the background, where we’re readying ourselves to potentially see what’s typically a lagging event within Covid-19 outbreaks – which is hospitalizations.”

As of last week, the NWT government had reported a handful of cases where people required hospital treatment in the current outbreak, though the severity of the patient’s condition in each instance was not given.

New figures are expected later on Monday.