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Signal of Covid-19 disappears from wastewater in Hay River

A signal of a possible undetected case of Covid-19 has disappeared from wastewater in Hay River.
Pixabay illustration

An indication – from wastewater testing – that there may have been an undetected Covid-19 case in Hay River has disappeared.

"Public Health has received negative wastewater surveillance results in Hay River," stated a Jan. 22 update from Dr. Kami Kandola, the Chief Public Health Officer for the Northwest Territories. "This means that there is no further evidence of undetected Covid-19 infections in Hay River."

Kandola added that the investigation is now closed and Hay River can return to routine public health measures against Covid-19.

"All those who were self-isolating in Hay River during the time of wastewater signal detection and were asked to come in for testing can return to routine measures – including monitoring for symptoms of Covid-19 and getting tested at their first sign," she added.

It is suspected that the signal in the Hay River wastewater may be connected to a person who had self-isolated in the town earlier in January before travelling on to Fort Liard and being diagnosed with Covid-19 there.

Mike Westwick, the manager of Covid-19 communications with the GNWT, said it is "highly likely" that the original case in Fort Liard is related to the wastewater signal in Hay River.

"The thing that we know for sure is that the additional risk in Hay River has resolved and Hay River can return to routine public health measures." Westwick told The Hub on Jan. 23.

On Jan. 13, Kandola's office advised that wastewater samples analyzed in Hay River from Jan. 1 to Jan. 6 had shown signs of Covid-19, indicating there might be an undetected case in the community or the signal might be from one or more travellers who were self-isolating or who had even left the territory.

People who had self-isolated in that time period were advised to be tested.

On Jan. 16, a GNWT news release stated that the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory reported a persistent positive Covid-19 signal in Hay River wastewater in samples collected in the previous 48 hours leading up to Jan. 11.

As a result, anyone who had self-isolated since Jan. 1 or who was still in self-isolation in Hay River or K'atlodeeche First Nation was urged to be tested.

Westwick said there was an aggressive testing program as a result of the signal in the wastewater.

"Since Jan. 11, there were 189 tests completed locally during that period and there were no positive cases identified," he said late last week.

As of Jan. 22, a total of six confirmed Covid-19 infections were reported in Fort Liard.

All diagnoses are in the same cluster, originally connected to out-of-territory travel.

Westwick was asked whether the GNWT may increase the requirement for 14 days of self-isolation since the person who travelled on to Fort Liard may have had the disease before leaving Hay River, based on the findings in the wastewater testing.

The GNWT official could not comment on an individual case.

However, Westwick said there is no reconsideration of the 14-day self-isolation requirement.

"There's no indication that there are any issues with 14 days of self-isolation," he said. "It's the rule of thumb, and most folks agree that you're free and clear. If you don't have symptoms through 14 days, you're good to go. An important aspect of that is symptom checks."