NWT Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola was in Hay River recently to provide information on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which is spreading throughout the world.

Kandola was asked about the possibility that the virus would eventually arrive in the NWT and Hay River, where there were no known cases as of late last week.

Dr. Kami Kandola, left, the chief public health officer for the NWT, was invited to Hay River to speak about the coronavirus by Erin Griffiths, the CEO of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority. They are standing by a hand sanitizer at the community hall, where meetings were held on March 3 with a number of groups.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

“In terms of expecting, we have so much travel coming outside of the NWT,” she said. “So we’re in a state of vigilance of trying to pick up cases that are related to travel. But we have no cases now and we don’t have community spread now, so it’s basically picking up cases that can be brought in and trying to get them before they become spreaders in the community.”

Kandola visited at the invitation of Erin Griffiths, the CEO of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority.

“I invited Kami to come down to Hay River to assist our health authority with educating our community and our staff, and increase the awareness of the virus,” said Griffiths.

She noted that meetings were held throughout the day with various groups – healthcare providers, the Town of Hay River, the Hay River Interagency Group, K’atlodeeche First Nation, West Point First Nation and the Hay River Metis Government Council. Plus, there was also a meeting in Enterprise.

“So I think we’ve covered a majority of our stakeholders,” said Griffiths.

She noted that social media and all the news coverage on television have ramped up people’s expectations and interest in the coronavirus.

“And I think it’s best to hear it right from the chief public health officer, as we are following her directions,” she said. “So that’s why we asked her to come down.”

Dr. Kami Kandola, the chief public health officer for the NWT, speaks on the coronavirus to members of the Hay River Seniors’ Society on March 3.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Griffiths said people in Hay River are more curious than anything else about coronavirus.

She noted that a lot of families will be travelling over spring break.

“I think they just want to make sure that they’re safe and they’re doing the proper things to protect themselves,” she said.

Kandola said there are things that people can do to help protect themselves and the community.

“So people, if they have symptoms and they think they’re a risk, they should stay home and then we can test them and make sure they don’t have it,” she said. “Those are things people can do. What you don’t want someone to do is someone who has travelled from an affected area, get sick, not tell anyone and go to as many public gatherings as possible.”

When Kandola was speaking on March 3, there were 27 confirmed cases in Canada of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

As of March 7, those numbers had increased to 28 confirmed cases in Ontario, 27 in British Columbia and two in Quebec.

The virus originally emerged in China late last year.

While there were no confirmed cases in Northern Canada as of March 7, the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) set for Whitehorse this month have been cancelled because of concerns about the coronavirus.

According to a news release on March 7, the decision was based on a recommendation from Yukon’s chief medical officer.

“It has been determined that cancelling the 2020 AWG is the most responsible precautionary measure,” states the news release from Whitehorse 2020 Arctic Winter Games officials, who added the decision is supported by the Arctic Winter Games International Committee.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have had to make this recommendation,” said Catherine Elliott, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, during a news conference. “We are disappointed.”

The Arctic Winter Games had been set to run from March 15-20.

There would have been 25 young athletes from Hay River attending the games.

As of March 7, the World Health Organization reported that 106,065 COVID-19 cases had been confirmed worldwide, with 3,598 reported deaths.

– with files from Brendan Burke

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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