Schools are told to delay reopening classrooms and workers to stay at home as Covid-19 spreads through Yellowknife, Hay River, Behchokǫ̀, Whatì, Fort Providence, and Aklavik.
The Northwest Territories’ chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola, said community spread was occurring or imminent in those six communities and more were set to be added in the coming days.
Dr Kandola said there had been 170 new cases of Covid-19 identified within the territory in the past day, adding that represented a record.
Earlier on Thursday, territorial government staff in those communities were told to work from home if possible from Friday onward.
“It is recommended that where possible, large employers allow employees to work from home,” Kandola said in a Thursday evening advisory.
She said schools should “not offer or provide in-class learning opportunities” and instead switch to remote learning from Monday next week, when most are expect to resume schooling in some form.
“Internal non-essential travel within the NWT in and out of the above mentioned communities should be avoided,” said Kandola.
There remain no hospitalizations associated with the Omicron outbreak across the territory, but the sheer number of cases and the rapidity of spread are unlike anything the NWT has seen in the pandemic.
The 546 active cases confirmed earlier on Thursday are a one-day record for the territory, surpassing 456 active cases recorded during the Delta-variant outbreak on October 7.
The instruction for GNWT staff to work from home where possible, emailed to employees by deputy finance minister William MacKay on Thursday afternoon, reflected concern that while Omicron is considered less severe than Delta, the rising number of cases could still ultimately overwhelm healthcare services.
“At this time, employees in Aklavik, Behchokǫ̀, Fort Providence, Hay River, Whatì, and Yellowknife – including Ndilǫ and Dettah – are asked to work from home,” MacKay wrote.
“If you work in another community, you should continue reporting to work as usual unless you are self-isolating or isolating, or a health professional tells you otherwise.”
Essential workers will be “advised by their supervisor as soon as possible,” the email continued.
“Managers will be contacting employees and will be as flexible as possible while ensuring continued government operations and services to residents of the NWT. Your manager will discuss with you the feasibility, logistics, and expectations of working from home.”