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N.J. Macpherson School in YK closed after COVID-19 case confirmed

NJ Macpherson
N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife has been closed after a case of COVID-19 was confirmed on May 1, chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola said in a news release on May 1. NNSL photo

N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife will be closed due to an outbreak after an individual was diagnosed with COVID-19 on May 1.

The Junior Kindergarten-Grade 5 school will move to remote learning as of May 3 for 14 days, chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola said in a news release late at night on May 1.

It is the first closure of a school due to COVID-19 in the NWT since Yellowknife schools decided to shut down in the initial spring lockdown in March of 2020.

The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) is also suspending all organized child and youth extra-curricular activities (including sports and arts) until further notice.

The infection is not related to travel outside the NWT and the individual is currently isolating and doing well.

The OCPHO has determined there are four additional probable cases of COVID-19, of which two are presumptive positive based on ID NOW testing, though final laboratory results remain to be confirmed.

Public health teams are directly contacting people identified as contacts.

All household members of close contacts are asked to isolate for 14 days after the last exposure to a known case, Kandola said.

Members of the public must notify public health if they or members of their household were at Quiznos Restaurant at 314 Old Airport Road on April 29 between 6:15 and 7:15 p.m, though there is no risk of ongoing exposure there, the OCPHO said.

The advisory also applies to people who were at N.J. Macpherson School during regular school hours from April 26-29, including students, staff and volunteers and anyone identified during that time interval.

Those individuals must stay at home and isolate for 14 days starting May 1 and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 using the NWT online COVID-19 self-assessment tool.

Household members who are fully vaccinated (two weeks have passed since their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine) can safely work if no one in the household is symptomatic or identified as a close contact of COVID-19.

As a result of the school outbreak, there has been a "surge in demand" for COVID-19 testing on May 2, said Health Minister Julie Green in a Facebook post.

Public health staff were expected to implement a surge capacity plan and increase testing capacity," she said.

Also on May 2, a community organization called the NJ Macpherson isolation volunteers formed on Facebook to offer contactless pick up and delivery for families isolating due to the outbreak.

The latest case brings to 58 the total number of COVID-19 cases that have occurred in the NWT, with seven cases currently active among NWT residents.