A webpage that lists Covid-19 exposure warnings for NWT stores, bars, and flights is worth having as it allows residents to “connect the dots,” despite occasional confusion, the territorial government says.
The NWT’s exposure notifications webpage at times struggled to keep pace as the Omicron variant reached the territory over the holiday travel season, inadvertently listing both a flight that did not exist and one that had yet to take off.
Several residents contacted Cabin Radio seeking clarification regarding those listings while they tried to work out if they had been exposed or not.
Almost 30 flights were listed on the page as of Wednesday evening, while seven new warnings were given for locations across Yellowknife. Flights have been added on almost a daily basis since mid-December.
At times, the notifications push residents to the limits of their memory. Can you remember where you were between 3pm and 3:15pm on Christmas Eve? (If it was Yellowknife’s uptown liquor shop, that’s a listed exposure site at that time.)
By email this week, the NWT government’s Covid-19 Secretariat said the webpage still served to “allow residents that might be feeling unwell to connect the dots if they can place themselves in the same vicinity as a positive Covid-19 infection.”
Even so, secretariat spokesperson Richard Makohoniuk allowed that “how or whether it is working, in practice, is up for debate.”
Makohoniuk added that the webpage also served to remind residents “that Covid-19 can be found in many different locations and setting safety nets is an important part of protecting oneself from potential infections.” (The setting of safety nets – a metaphor related either to trapeze acts or trawlers, depending on your perspective – is territorial officials’ latest phrase as they motivate residents to follow public health guidelines. Premier Caroline Cochrane, health minister Julie Green, and Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola all used the term at a briefing for reporters on Tuesday.)
Maintaining accurate exposure notifications may become trickier as the territory shifts to a system that urges many people to take tests at home if they are only mildly symptomatic and not considered to be at heightened risk of severe illness.
The NWT now asks people with positive at-home tests to phone in their result rather than attend a testing centre, and similarly asks them to notify contacts themselves – potentially increasing the likelihood of gaps in exposure reporting, depending on the propensity of residents to phone in positive tests.
Makohoniuk said the exposure notifications webpage would remain in place unless infection numbers increase so dramatically that community spread means contact tracing can no longer be effectively carried out.
That happened during the fall’s Delta-variant outbreak, he said, when community spread in Yellowknife reached a point at which exposure notifications were no longer published.