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At least three house parties in Iqaluit account for increased COVID-19 transmission

The Government of Nunavut (GN) announced May 6 that there are 12 new cases of COVID-19 in Iqaluit and there have been eight recoveries in the territorial capital.
Mayor of Iqaluit Kenny Bell votes for the implementation of a State of Local Emergency at noon on May 3. Facebook live screenshot

The Government of Nunavut (GN) announced May 6 that there are 12 new cases of COVID-19 in Iqaluit and there have been eight recoveries in the territorial capital.

There are a total of 86 active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, 84 of which are in Iqaluit and the remaining two are in Kinngait.

On April 27, an individual who was transferred to Baffin Correctional Centre (BCC) tested positive for COVID-19. The individual had already been placed in isolation from the general population on arrival per the facilities’ protocols. There have now been 10 cases of COVID-19 identified at the Baffin Correctional Centre.

“All individuals are stable and are isolating on-site, said chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson.

The GN is also asking people who have attended any house parties within the last three weeks to contact the COVID hotline and request swabbing.

“These activities put people at risk and will extend the outbreak if they continue. Gatherings of individuals at different households can expose everyone at the gathering and everyone they live with to COVID-19,” said Patterson.

There are three house parties that public health authorities know of where transmission of COVID-19 took place.

It is now safe for people to stay at the Tammaativvik Boarding Home with staff who tested positive April 27 now isolating at home and all the other staff having tested negative.

“The boarding home also has processes in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19, including enhanced cleaning, encouraging and supporting guests to isolate in their rooms. There are no visitors allowed and current public health measures prohibit visiting around the city, clients are only asked to leave for their appointments and to pick up perscriptions. Food and beverages are being delivered to the rooms, no one is allowed to gather inside, only clients are allowed on the property and social distancing is required while outside, masks and distancing are mandatory,” said Patterson.

Medical travelers cleared to leave from Iqaluit still have to isolate for 14 days when they get home, household members also have to isolate when the medical traveller goes home, to keep risk of spread between communities “as low as possible.”

Three people have been medevaced to Ottawa due to complications from COVID-19, however, “no other Nunavummiut have been admitted to hospital due to this outbreak,” said Patterson.

State of local emergency

On May 3 at noon, the City of Iqaluit held an emergency meeting over Zoom, implementing a State of Local Emergency in the territorial capital.

Councillor Kyle Sheppard called for a State of Local Emergency in the city. The motion passed unanimously and the State of Local Emergency was put into effect 12:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

The State of Local Emergency will unlock limited authorities for the City under the Emergency Measures Act, these include:

- Giving the City additional powers to support compliance efforts, as needed;

- Allows the City to take additional measures to support the vulnerable population outside of existing support;

- Ensure water security measures are in place for human health and hygiene.

The total amount of people under 18 with COVID-19 stands at 30, with increased household transmission being the cause.

Pfizer vaccine for youth being considered

On May 5 the Government of Canada approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 and over and the GN is considering the use of it.

“Right now we are looking at all options including if there’s an opportunitiy to use Pfizer in the near-future for at least some children in Nunavut,” Patterson said.

With the Pfizer vaccine’s cold storage requirements very few communities in Nunavut can safely store it, with Iqaluit being one of those.

“It has to be shipped and stored at minus 80, once it gets outside of that temperture range even if it’s in a freezer it’s only good for two weeks, once it’s thawed it has to be used within five days.

So far 16,271 Nunavummiut have received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine and 12, 692 are fully vaccinated.

There have been 71 recoveries since this outbreak began last month.

“Remember that your actions can impact everyones health, public health is everyones duty, so Nunavummiut please continue to follow all the measures we have in place,” said Joe Savikataaq, Nunavut’s Premier.