Schools in the Yellowknife area are set to remain closed for the foreseeable future as a Covid-19 outbreak continues, Dr Kami Kandola said on Wednesday morning.
The Northwest Territories’ chief public health officer, speaking to Loren McGinnis on CBC North’s Trailbreaker, said opening schools next week in the current circumstances was “unfortunately not” realistic.
Yellowknife had 165 active cases of Covid-19 as of Tuesday, reporting 22 new infections in the past day and 417 cases since the current outbreak began. Schools have been closed since September 14, an order that was last week extended until at least the start of October 5.
Dr Kandola said she would soon announce the detail of a further extension of that closure.
“I was hoping for less active cases after the weekend, after we put in the more restrictive order,” said Kandola, referring to stricter limits on gatherings introduced in a circuit-breaker public health order last week. “But unfortunately, we’re still seeing a high rate of activity.”
The number of active cases involving youth isn’t known, but Kandola acknowledged some children are affected.
“We have a number of active cases in Yellowknife, Ndilǫ, and Dettah that are unlinked. We don’t know where the sources are. And some of them are involved in the school-aged population,” Kandola told the CBC.
“If we were to open schools with this high rate of activity, we would for-sure have introduction in our most vulnerable population, which is our JK-Grade 6, because they’re not eligible for the vaccine.
“We have to weigh in-class learning with the risk of outbreaks in that population. Once that risk is a lot lower, we can consider opening up to in-person learning.”
More detail is expected from the chief public health officer on Wednesday or Friday.
More measures may come
Kandola said she was also considering, more generally, what new measures might be needed to bring outbreaks in Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀ under control.
“We have people who literally have Covid attending parties. There’s transmission happening in households. The first thing we need to do is decrease the spread within Yellowknife to Yellowknife,” she said.
“We know the measures we have done are not sufficient to peak and bring down the cases. We’re going to look at what we can do further to reduce the risk of spread and introduction into other communities.”
Meanwhile, Kandola said the territorial government would provide more statistics related to deaths from Covid-19 once the number was higher.
So far, six people in the Northwest Territories have passed away from Covid-19. In all but one instance, the identities and communities of those involved are not known.
Kandola – noting the NWT government earlier waited until at least 10 people had been hospitalized before providing hospital data – said more information about the vaccination status and age of those who pass away would be given once that number reached 10.
“People have enough information to know whether they should get vaccinated or not,” Kandola said, referring to the body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the ability of Covid-19 vaccines to help people avoid severe illness or death.