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Mary River Mine cases rise to 12; Iqaluit's low-barrier shelter temporarily closes


The Mary River Mine now has 12 active cases of COVID-19 on-site, according to a Government of Nunavut (GN) update today.

“All individuals and high-risk contacts are isolating and doing well. Travel to and from the mine has been limited this week to assess the risk, we are monitoring the situation and if the need arises (will) send support resources,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.

Currently the Department of Health is supporting people at the mine remotely. There is little risk to Nunavummiut with regards to this outbreak as there are no Nunavut employees on-site.

There are medical staff available on site, as required by the mine according to the Workers Safety Compensation Commission rules.

Genome sequencing on these latest cases include more identified B.1.1.7 (British) cases in Iqaluit, as well as the B. variant, which was found at the Mary River Mine, the latter was first identified in India.

“We only have two results from Baffinland so we don’t know which one is causing the outbreak at this point,” explained Patterson.

“We only have two results from Baffinland so we don’t know which one is causing the outbreak at this point,” explained Dr. Michael Patterson on May 4. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

A second hospitalization was also reported by the GN, and the CPHO stated they were medevaced to Ottawa.

There are also 23 active cases of COVID-19 in people who are under 18 in Iqaluit as well, Patterson added. He cites increased household transmission for the increase of these numbers.

“A lot of the transmission we’ve seen recently has been household transmission that essential workers inadvertently brought in the home, and it’s involving their children," said Patterson.

The low-barrier shelter in Iqaluit has temporarily been closed due to the risk of spread at the shelter.

“The Government of Nunavut is actively helping the Uquutaq Society find solutions and to be able to help the vulnerable Iqalummiut,” said Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq.

The Aqsarniit Hotel is being used to help isolate people who are unable to find a place in Iqaluit to isolate, including some people who access the low-barrier shelter.

“We’re using it as an alternative isolation site for people who either don’t have housing or have overcrowded housing. It’s similar to the hotels in the south but it’s not designed as a precautionary one for people who are travelling,” said Patterson.

“We’re offering it to individuals who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19, it’s voluntary and they’re going there to reduce the risk of them spreading it to other individuals.”

The Arctic Survival Store and a number of snowmobile shops in Iqaluit have now been designated as essential businesses on May 4.

“Apologies to everyone for this mix-up, supporting our hunters and sustainable food security and time on the land is always one of the government's priorities,” said Savikataaq.

Among the updates provided were reiterated messages about how everyone has to do their part to contain this outbreak.

“With simple basic measures it can be controlled, unless it is a part of essential work, do not have visitors into your home or visit other homes. Wear a mask when you are around others who are not part of your household. Avoid gatherings as much as possible, maintain distancing of six-feet and get vaccinated,” said Patterson.