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Overcrowded housing a major factor in spread of Covid-19, says chief public health officer

As Covid-19 rages in the Kivalliq region, particularly in Arviat, Nunavut's chief public health officer (CPHO) says that overcrowded housing is a significant issue contributing to the rapid spread of the virus.

Living in overcrowded homes "certainly aggravates the problem" of Covid-19 spread in Nunavut's communities, chief public health officer Michael Patterson acknowledged on Wednesday.
NNSL file photo

“It’s a major factor, probably one of the bigger contributors to the spread,” said Dr. Michael Patterson. "It certainly aggravates the problem."

Nevertheless, there are ways for Nunavummiut to help stop the transmission of Covid-19 within their homes. Washing hands, wearing masks when appropriate and regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces remain crucial steps, Patterson advised during Wednesday's media briefing.

"Those (actions) still have an impact,” he said.

Households that regularly take those extra measures see little transmission between occupants, according to Patterson.

The CPHO also spoke about what Nunavummiut should do if they are down south and have tested positive for Covid-19 and want to return to Nunavut.

“They would have to be cleared by the local health authority, it’s in their jurisdiction,” he said.

The existing positive coronavirus cases among Nunavummiut in the south are mainly in Manitoba, according to the Patterson, who wouldn't reveal too many other related details.

The GN will collaborate with health authorities in the south to support isolation for those who need it.

“In those cases, we’re working with the local health authorities to maintain and support isolation and they’ll be able to return when that’s finished so they’re no longer infectious by the time they return to Nunavut,” the CPHO said.

There are a number of places where Nunavummiut choose to isolate – hotels they have booked for themselves, family homes and even hospitals – but the locations do not include the GN's isolation hubs if individuals test positive for Covid-19, Patterson explained.

“No one with Covid-19 have isolated in any of our boarding homes,” he said.

Anyone who has reason to believe they have been exposed to Covid-19 is advised to call the Covid-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST, or notify their community health centre right away, and immediately isolate at home for 14 days. Please do not go to the health centre in person.