Despite high vaccination rates, municipal vaccine passports and hopes the pandemic was waning, Covid-19 broke out in Arviat and Rankin Inlet again over the holidays.
As of press time, each community was hovering around 55 to 65 active cases. The rest of the Kivalliq region had a smattering of cases – one in Baker Lake, two in Chesterfield Inlet and a presumptive case in Whale Cove.
The territory launched a hard lockdown quickly, limiting just about all gatherings and advising strongly against travel.
The Government of Nunavut announced on Jan. 6 it would no longer be tracking individual cases, instead assuming that the latest variant, Omicron, is the cause of just about every cold symptom in the territory.
Arviat had one of the first major outbreaks during the pandemic in the North, so for Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr., this latest outbreak is a familiar sight.
“We’re in the same storm again as last year but in a different boat,” he said. “Our boat is much bigger and much safer now, and it’s due to the vaccine that we have. Our vaccination rates are quite high in Arviat here, above the national average, so we’re much better off now than we were during the last outbreak.”
People in his community are feeling more optimistic because of that protection, he said.
Rankin Inlet Mayor Harry Towtongie said it can be hard sometimes to keep up with policies that change frequently during an outbreak.
“We’re coping OK,” he said. “We’re trying to keep everybody calm and not to panic.”
He’s trying to ensure the community is informed through social media and radio, while residents isolate and follow protocol as much as possible.
“We’re just in limbo right now, I guess you can say,” said Towtongie. “But the community is trying to stay positive. You can tell by people going on radio and saying hello to each other or greetings for New Year’s.”
People are accepting the fact that anybody can get Omicron, he said, and that it might be a while until the community is out of lockdown. Towtongie said it’s been a rollercoaster for the community in terms of what’s going to happen next and what the next set of protocols will be, but they’ve had practice over the last two years of keeping safe.
“It’s like ‘Oh no, not again,’” said Towtongie. “But we accept it. We’re dealing with it as best as we can and that’s about all we can do.”
He suggests people be careful, follow the public health guidelines, be patient and take care of each other.
“We’re hoping that we’ll get through this sooner than later, but we’ll get through this.”