The Northwest Territories’ Legislative Assembly is the site of the latest localized Covid-19 outbreak, with six confirmed and two probable cases announced on Sunday.
The territory’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola, said public health officials were following up with all known contacts at the legislature. Dr Kandola issued an appeal for anyone who attended the legislature last week but has not been contacted by public health to isolate immediately and get in touch.
The specific dates in question are October 4-7 from 8am to 6pm daily, then October 8 from 8am till 1pm.
Some of the staff in the building on those days were running technical aspects of the public inquiry into whether Steve Norn broke the MLAs’ code of conduct over his failure to isolate appropriately while infected with Covid-19 in April.
At least one of the staff involved in that hearing now has Covid-19. The hearing was adjourned early on Friday as news of a first case at the legislature broke. The hearing had been due to reconvene on Friday next week, a timeline that may now be affected by the isolation of at least some technical staff.
If you believe the legislature outbreak affects you and need to contact public health, the number to call is (867) 767-9120.
Confirmation of Covid-19 at the legislature follows a pattern of localized outbreaks being announced at workplaces around Yellowknife.
Others confirmed to date include four cases at the Avens seniors’ facility, an outbreak among staff of a Giant Mine remediation contractor, another at the Tłı̨chǫ Highway project, and one at the Chateau Nova Hotel. A day home and youth centre are also affected.
Beyond those, the chief public health officer said her staff were closely monitoring conditions at a range of other Yellowknife facilities such as grocery stores and the city’s Walmart.
The Vital Abel boarding home, in Ndilǫ, also made the list – a facility at which no outbreak has yet been declared, but where at least one case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in the past week.
Vital Abel is a site of particular concern as it houses people from many smaller NWT communities who cannot afford to stay elsewhere while on medical travel. Dozens of medical travel patients and their escorts can be housed in Vital Abel’s 19 rooms and, when at capacity, the boarding home sends guests it cannot accommodate to local hotels.
While steps have been taken to minimize the risk of exposure – such as sending medical travellers from Behchokǫ̀ and Whatì to isolate at the Quality Inn while those communities have been in containment – there remains concern that any outbreak at Vital Abel could swiftly spread the Delta variant to a number of communities.
Though staff were told to receive a Covid-19 test after a case was reported at the facility on Wednesday, it was not clear whether all medical travel guests staying there at the time had been similarly contacted.
Privately, public health officials acknowledged the risk Vital Abel poses. Two officials described trying to strike a balance between announcing outbreaks as they happen at workplaces and unnecessarily panicking residents.
“There have been repeated Covid-19 public exposures identified at locations in Yellowknife over the past few weeks,” read a statement from Kandola encompassing Vital Abel and other workplaces.
“These locations continue to be monitored for signs of outbreaks and the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer will work with management to implement additional precautions as necessary.”