As numbers of active Covid-19 cases decrease in the Sahtu, the NWT government is lifting its containment order for Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake.
The order, which came into effect on August 15, will be lifted at 11:59pm on Saturday. “It has been a challenging time for these two communities and I hope this experience is one that we can all collectively learn from,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola on Wednesday.
A separate containment order in Norman Wells, which was set to lift this week, has been extended for another 10 days. Close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases and those who have symptoms of Covid-19 in the community are required to isolate.
“The decision to issue or extend the containment order is not one that I make lightly,” Dr Kandola said. “I must weigh the inconvenience and difficulty and harms posed to a community by containment against the risk of ongoing Covid-19 transmission.”
Tulita is under its own, municipally imposed 10-day lockdown over a suspected Covid-19 case in the community.
As of Tuesday evening, there were four active and 75 recovered Covid-19 cases in Colville Lake, 23 active and 83 recovered in Fort Good Hope, and 26 active and 24 recovered in Norman Wells.
Farther south in Yellowknife, Kandola said community spread continues and about a third of infections in the territorial capital since mid-August have no obvious transmission chain. As a result, Kandola recommends against non-essential travel into and out of Yellowknife to protect small communities.
Yellowknife’s St Pat’s high school on Wednesday reported a Covid-19 case and said it would remain open but “closely monitor the situation.”
Mandatory masking is required in all indoor public spaces across the territory.
When will restrictions ease?
While there are dozens of active cases of Covid-19 in the NWT, some residents are eagerly awaiting the lifting of pandemic restrictions in the territory. The Yukon government ended its state of emergency on August 25.
Kandola said she plans to review the situation in the NWT in mid-September, after two full weeks of classroom learning in schools, with the Labour Day weekend passed, and after Norman Wells’ extended containment order has ended.
“At this point, we are not ready for easing restrictions,” she said.
There are currently 115 active cases of Covid-19 among NWT residents and two in non-residents.
Who should get tested?
With the recent spike in Covid-19 cases and ongoing community spread, there has been some confusion about who should get tested.
Scott Robertson, executive co-lead for the territory’s Covid-19 response team, said the territory is currently processing between 300 and 400 Covid-19 tests a day.
“We know there’s a lot of anxiety around all of the exposures we’ve gotten in the Northwest Territories but … we can’t test everyone and testing is not indicated for everyone,” he said.
Robertson said anyone with any symptoms of Covid-19 should isolate and arrange for testing, along with unvaccinated people who were exposed to Covid-19 and – in some cases – fully vaccinated individuals who were at a high-risk exposure site.
For travellers, Kandola said the territory is prioritizing testing for people who have entered the NWT and plan to travel on to a small community. In those cases, fully vaccinated travellers are required to get tested on day one and day eight, while partially vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers must isolate then get tested on day eight and 10 respectively.
Anyone working with high-risk populations – like children under 12, at shelters, or in corrections, long-term care or health facilities – who is fully vaccinated must get tested on days one and eight.
Officials urge residents to get vaccinated
Health officials continue to encourage vaccination as the best defence against Covid-19. Kandola said breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people show exposure to the Delta variant is high.
According to the territorial government, of the 428 Covid-19 infections in 2021, 24.5 percent were among fully vaccinated individuals and seven percent were partially vaccinated. When it comes to severe illness, the overwhelming majority of cases have been unvaccinated. Of the 10 hospitalizations in the NWT since the start of the pandemic, nine involved unvaccinated people.
“We’re seeing the Delta variant spread very quickly in under-immunized communities,” Kandola said. “In communities that are well-immunized, it’s finding those pockets of unvaccinated groups and it’s spreading quickly there.”
In order to achieve herd immunity against the Delta variant, Kandola said the general population would have to reach 90-percent vaccination, something that’s not possible in the NWT until vaccines are approved for children under 12.