The Issue: 365 days of Covid
We Say: The fight isn’t over yet
To say that Nunavummiut are a resilient bunch would be an understatement in most cases.
As of March 18, we’ve had a full year of public health emergency declarations being repeatedly extended. While it isn’t expected that routine should come to an end anytime soon, things are starting to feel a little more positive once again.
Arviat endured one of the most gruelling lockdowns of anywhere on the planet, clocking in 118 days of strict restrictions as part of the hamlet’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 within its bounds.
Not many places can claim to have put up with such a complete lockdown. New Zealand, which has been widely praised for its efforts in fighting the virus, only locked down for half that stretch at one time – at 49 days between March 25 and May 13, 2020. That drastic measure put the island nation safely ahead of the curve of viral spread. It has worked wonders, with the population of nearly five million reporting just over 2,000 cases and 26 deaths since March 2020.
Adherence to these strict protocols is draining, but the proof is there, just as it is here.
There have now been 395 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Nunavut as of March 18, the bulk of which, 339, were concentrated in Arviat over two separate outbreaks.
Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s top doc, puts it best when he says, “It’s been a busy and trying year for a lot of people, not just in Nunavut but all over the country and all over the globe.”
At the beginning, community spirit was easy to see and feel. Stay-at-home orders were met with general cheer and individuals and communities found ways to pass the time together online. They filled their windows with messages of hope and banged pots and pans in thanks for the selflessness of essential workers who kept services running amid the uncertainty. They visited their Elders often by waving through windows, knowing it was in everyone’s best interest that beloved family members not be exposed to the devastating illness.
Nunavut kept the curve planked in the early days with increased hand washing, mask use and other public health measures still in effect. The use of isolation hubs set up by the GN monitored the status of those on medical and business travel, largely keeping Covid outside the territory.
“By fall time I think there was a little too much faith in the isolation hubs; we even said early on that the hubs weren’t perfect,” said Patterson. “I think many people started getting the idea that Covid couldn’t get through the hubs. Then November started and at least in Arviat it spread very fast once it got in there.”
Hope for a brighter year ahead comes twofold: reaching herd immunity through a well-orchestrated vaccination campaign that will have seen mass vaccination clinics held in every Nunavut community by the end of March – and by those who must travel outside the territory doing their part to keep others safe by continuing to isolate upon return while following public health recommendations.
While it has been exhausting, and most people are experiencing some form or another of Covid-fatigue, if we keep up the fight against this virus a while longer we may finally see, as Patterson says, a gradual return to normal.