The community of Colville Lake has declared a state of emergency in response its rising number of COVID-19 cases, Chief Wilbert Kochon said, Aug. 18.
“Everything seems calm. Everyone is co-operating. But the numbers are rising,” Kochon said. “We called a state of emergency so we can get more backup from the government, if necessary. We need people to make sure they stay in and don’t run around. We need to keep an eye on people.”
There are five active cases of COVID-19 in Colville Lake, with 44 cases in Fort Good Hope, seven in Norman Wells, 12 in Yellowknife, three in Délı̨nę and one in Inuvik, according to the latest update on Aug. 17 from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.
The two most recent cases in Norman Wells occurred in the town’s Sahtú Dene Nechá Ko ̨́Long Term Care Facility, where chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola declared an outbreak on Aug. 18.
Kochon believes that the infections will start to change the minds of vaccine skeptics in Colville Lake, which has the lowest vaccination rate of any community in the NWT.
Only 28 per cent of residents there have been fully vaccinated, with 44 per cent partially vaccinated, according to the most recent data posted on the COVID-19 Dashboard.
Kochon re-iterated comments he made in May when he said that residents between the ages of 18 and 35 are reluctant to get vaccinated. He attributed their hesitancy to misinformation spread on social media.
“But now COVID-19 is here,” he said. “I think more young people will think about getting vaccinated. People who were against the vaccines before want to get them right now. The majority who are under 25 haven’t been vaccinated. The people who weren’t vaccinated are the ones testing positive now. There are some vaccines here in the health centre. We have a couple nurses here who came in on Monday and they’ve been busy rapid testing people.”
He noted that even some Elders who were vaccinated have tested positive for the virus.
“One is 86 and one is 80. But they’re doing well. They said they had a little cold, they didn’t know it was COVID-19. A (family member) in Fort Good Hope who is 93 was medevacked to Yellowknife because he was dehydrated. I’m not sure if he was vaccinated. And he tested positive. He’s giving the nurses a hard time now,” Kochon said with a laugh.
“He’s a very hyper Elder. I guess he doesn’t like to sit in one spot. I guess he’s doing good. I’m happy that he’s good,” he said.
Kandola said in a tweet on Aug. 18 that COVID-19 infections in vaccinated individuals doesn’t mean vaccines aren’t working but rather that unvaccinated individuals will have “ten times the rate of infection of vaccinated people.”
Kochon urges residents to get their vaccines before infected individuals become sicker.
“It’s real. It’s up to people themselves to look at vaccinations. I’m not going to force them. They have to decide for themselves. We want them to do it of their own free will.”