Sixty-nine Northwest Territories children aged under 12 currently have Covid-19, the territory’s chief public health officer said on Friday evening.
The statistic is rare. Dr Kami Kandola’s office ordinarily does not issue such data for active cases among specific age groups, but did so on Friday in an apparent bid to underline the severity of the present outbreak.
“In Yellowknife, Covid-19 infections are occurring in a variety of workplaces, in day homes and in retail stores,” read a message from Dr Kandola on Friday evening as she described a virus less contained than ever in the territorial capital.
“The majority of Covid-19 is no longer linked to the outbreak in the underhoused population in Yellowknife. This is community transmission and the impacts are being felt in all demographics within Yellowknife,” the message continued.
Only essential travel to and from Yellowknife should be considered, Kandola told NWT residents.
While children are considered a low risk for severe symptoms, Kandola said they were still experiencing the impacts of the outbreak. According to her office, 15 percent of all active cases in the NWT are in children aged under 12. Of more than 1,300 Covid-19 cases identified in the territory since the start of August, 202 have come in children aged under 12.
So far, Canada has not authorized any vaccine against Covid-19 for that age group.
Heading into the Thanksgiving long weekend, the NWT as a whole reported 456 active cases including 45 new cases affecting five communities on Friday.
In Yellowknife there were 24 new cases, pushing the city’s number of active cases to a pandemic high of 281.
Kandola said the city’s Walmart and its grocery stores had been the sites of “repeated Covid-19 public exposures” in recent weeks and were being monitored for signs of localized outbreaks. Her office said it would “work with management to implement additional precautions” at those stores if need, though the nature of those precautions was not specified.
According to the chief public health officer there are already localized outbreaks at Yellowknife’s Avens seniors’ facility, among certain members of a Giant Mine remediation contractor, at the Tłı̨chǫ Highway construction project, at Yellowknife’s Chateau Nova Hotel, and at both a Yellowknife day home and youth centre. One case reported at the NWT legislature on Friday forced the early adjournment of MLA Steve Norn’s public inquiry regarding his alleged isolation breach in April.
In Behchokǫ̀ there were 18 new cases. The community’s number of active cases fell by 11 to 152, the first time Behchokǫ̀’s active case count has dropped since September 27, though Kandola said that number remained “a cause for concern.”
Three other communities reported new cases on Friday: Fort Smith’s outbreak grew by one case to eight active cases, Hay River reported one new case and moved to seven active cases, and Norman Wells reported its first new case in a month.
Exposure advisories for Fort Smith, Yellowknife, and a Canadian North flight were issued earlier on Friday. Meanwhile, the federal government said more oxygen equipment was being sent to Stanton Territorial Hospital, a building that turns out to be incapable of supplying oxygen in the volumes desired.
One additional patient was hospitalized in the past day. There were no new intensive care admissions.
The territory’s next update is anticipated on Tuesday, following the Thanksgiving long weekend – one during which many NWT residents will be unable to gather.
“Now more than ever it is crucial that everyone follow the advice of the chief public health officer to prevent severe outcomes from Covid-19, preserve capacity within our health system, and protect family, friends, and all community members,” the territorial government stated.