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NWT has five active cases of Covid-19: Kandola

Dr. Kami Kandola says there are no plans to open a travel bubble with the Yukon.

The NWT has five active cases of Covid-19, said chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola on Tuesday.

Three are connected to the limited outbreak at the Gahcho Kué Winter Road Site over the last week, one is at the diamond mine site itself and the fifth was found in Fort Liard on Monday, Kandola told reporters at a news conference in the legislative assembly building.

All five individuals are doing well and isolating, and there is no risk of community spread.

The new case in Fort Liard is a “work-related exposure linked to out-of-territory travel” and not connected to the six cases of the small community cluster that had recovered in the last week of January, Kandola said.

Unlike that cluster of cases, the infection announced on Monday has a low risk of further transmission.

In response to an inquiry as to whether the latest case in Fort Liard was the result of someone not self-isolating properly or if they were given a special exemption to self-isolate in the community, Premier Caroline Cochrane said the case is still under investigation.

“If you travel outside the territory for any reason, make sure that the self-monitoring, if you are travelling for other reasons do the isolation. Wash your hands, wear your mask, keep your social distancing - is our best defense,” Cochrane said.

Ongoing wastewater surveillance in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Inuvik currently shows no anomalies, Kandola said.

Moderna vaccine delays

The Canada-wide delay in shipments of the Moderna vaccine will change the Covid-19 vaccination campaign roll out in the short-term but vaccination clinics already scheduled for this week will not be affected, Kandola said.

“Existing supply will be dedicated to second doses for residents and staff at long term care facilities,” she added.

Health Minister Julie Green announced on Friday that the delay would reduce the expected third shipment this week from 7,200 doses to 4,700. The first shipment arrived in the NWT on Dec. 28 and the second in mid-January.

Information on the fourth and fifth shipments – due in mid-March – was not yet available, Kandola said.

The federal government is in discussions with Moderna on future shipments and the NWT's vaccination roll out could be re-adjusted depending on the outcome of those conversations.

“While this is disappointing, we all need to expect some bumps in the road. This is one of the most complex all-encompassing vaccination drives in the country. Supply was always going to be strained, particularly until additional vaccines reach market.

“But as Northerners we also need to remember just how fortunate we are to have received the allocation we have so far. We'll still receive enough to vaccinate 75 per cent of our adult population in a relatively short period of time, and much faster than (other) jurisdictions in Canada.”

First dose priority for rotational workers

Despite the reduced third shipment, NWT resident rotational workers at remote camps will begin receiving their first doses of Moderna this week, a group that is prioritized because they work with others from southern jurisdictions who might import Covid-19.

“We're putting out an appeal to all the rotational workers who work in closed camps. You work two to four weeks, with people coming straight from other provinces where there are a large number of outbreaks. You may be healthy, you may not consider yourself at risk. But please consider getting vaccinated because we don't want the virus to coming up to the communities,” Kandola said.

Residents of long-term care facilities and their support staff began receiving their second doses as of the last weekend of January.

One-hundred and twenty-five second doses have been administered to residents and staff at Avens Manor in Yellowknife and at the Jimmy Erasmus Seniors Home in Behchoko, said Territorial Medical Director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, who also spoke at the news conference.

Second doses are scheduled to be delivered to long-term care residents and staff at Stanton Territorial Hospital on Wednesday, and at the long-term care unit in the Inuvik hospital and in the Fort Simpson Elder Care Home on Friday.

Whether the order of communities to receive the second dose will be the same as it was for the first dose will depend on the arrival of vaccine supplies and on the priority groups that remain to be vaccinated, said Pegg.

Cochrane closed the conference by saying that the NWT having the lowest number of Covid-19 cases in the country isn't the result of luck.

“Not only have we had a very competent chief public health officer and medical staff but our businesses, our NGOs, every resident has stepped up to protect us. We're not out of this yet. We're really close to the end. But please just keep abiding by the orders for a little bit longer. And hopefully...we'll be able to get back to a normal life.”

A total of 12,241 first doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered at clinics in all 33 communities of the NWT since the campaign started on Dec. 31, said Green.