Three temporary public health orders and stronger gathering restrictions will take effect across the North Slave region starting on Saturday, Sept. 25.
Premier Caroline Cochrane, Health Minister Julie Green and Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer held a news conference on Sept. 22 stating that added measures are needed in Yellowknife, Dettah, and Ndilo as well as the Tłı̨chǫ communities of Whatì and Behchokǫ̀ because of the increasing high rate of active cases and continued transmission of the virus.
Cochrane, Green and Kandola all said that the COVID-19 situation in the NWT is the worst it has been since the pandemic began last year.
The territory currently has the highest per capita rate of active COVID-19 infections in Canada with more than 240 active cases. Yellowknife, N’dilo and Dettah represent the bulk of the active COVID cases with 194.
Cochrane said that even though up to recently the territory had one of the lowest in the country, in recent weeks, public health authorities have not been able to control the continued spread of the virus.
“With community transmission, it’s difficult to determine where the exposure is occurring during the current outbreak situation in Yellowknife,” Cochrane said, adding that people with positive cases of the virus have been attending businesses and other facilities.
While health authorities have been trying to contact trace and isolate those cases, they haven’t got it under control.
“The sheer volume of cases means it’s difficult to determine the full extent of the situation in Behchoko, Whati, Yellowknife, Dettah and N’dilo,” she said.
Green said the only way to reduce the active cases is to add further restrictions.
“We realize that public health measures will have negative consequences for residents and businesses, but the priority remains the health and safety of NWT residents,” she said. “This will not change in the middle of our toughest battle to date”
Kandola said the new restrictions will reduce the active case numbers and ease the stress on the health care system.
“Close to 60 per cent of active cases are in Yellowknife, N’dilo and Dettah our health system is stretched and we are seeing severe outcomes,” Kandola said. “Twenty-three NWT residents have been hospitalized, which includes nine ICU admissions, since mid August.”
Additionally, two residents have died in the past month, she said.
She also recommended against non-essential travel in and out of the outbreak communities, working from home if possible and getting vaccinated.
The capital and two Yellowknives Dene communities will see a 10-day extension on COVID-19 gathering order starting on Sept. 24 at 11:59 p.m and through to Oct. 4. It includes a limit of 25 people for outdoor gatherings and a cap of 10 people for all indoor gatherings.
“This will not apply to essential businesses and facilities, provided they limit the number of in-person staff to those required to carry out operations,” Kandola said.
“All previous exemptions for persons, businesses, organizations, restaurants or bars will no longer apply.”
Kandola went on to say that exemptions will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Additionally, household gatherings can only have a maximum of five visitors at a time with a total of 10 people. Schools, colleges and trade schools will remain closed up to the order’s expiry date.
Day cares and day homes will remain open due to approved plans submitted to the OCPHO.
Behchokǫ̀’s temporary COVID-19 restrictions will be extended to Oct. 7 while Whatì’s restrictions will carry on to Oct. 9.
Kandola said these measures are being taken because there are still residents in both communities who have yet to recover from positive cases and it puts other residents at risk.
“Isolation under a temporary COVID-19 restriction order is enforceable by law,” she added. “Visiting any public place could result in an exposure to COVID-19.”
Contacts of COVID cases, provided they have no symptoms, are allowed to leave home isolation to go outdoors alone for fresh air but those people can’t interact with anyone at at anytime.
People with symptoms who are isolating cannot leave home or place of isolation