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Staff members test positive at Iqaluit Elders Home, facility closed temporarily

Though long-term care facilities were among the first eligible for vaccination, not all got a shot
Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer shared May 10 that two staff members at the Iqaluit Elder’s Home tested positive for COVID-19 during weekly surveillance, causing the facility to close temporarily. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

During weekly surveillance testing two staff members at the Iqaluit Elders Home tested positive for COVID-19, which has had a number of ramifications for it’s residents.

“Over the weekend we made the difficult decision to close the Iqaluit Elders Home after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. As a result the majority of staff are isolating, which makes it impossible to provide safe, quality care to residents,” said Dr. Michael Patterson.

Due to staff members having to isolate for two weeks there are not enough staff to provide safe and appropriate care for that time period. As a result, the six current residents have been moved outside of Iqaluit.

Four residents were sent to Embassy West in Ottawa, Ontario while the other two are still in-territory. One returned home to their family while the other was sent to another facility in Nunavut.

“Both of these individuals (within Nunavut) will isolate for two weeks,” said Patterson, adding the family of the resident who returned home must also isolate.

Once the Elder’s home is able to get back to normal staffing levels most residents will be able to return.

“While the centre is closed, Elders will be supported in other facilities either here in the territory or in the south depending upon their need.”

The staff and residents of Nunavut’s long-term care facilities were among the first people in the territory eligible to get vaccinated, however not everyone chose to take the opportunity.

“That’s how it happened,” said Patterson. “For people who have chosen to get vaccinated, there’s no doubt that the vaccine worldwide has made a big difference in their risk of severe COVID-19. We continue to encourage everybody who’s eligible to get the vaccine (to take it).”

There are 12 active cases of COVID-19 in Iqaluit’s correctional facilities, all of which are being isolated at the Baffin Correctional Facility (BCC).

“We don’t know if COVID was brought in by one individual, we’re not trying to blame them they wouldn’t have known, then it spread to everybody else, everyone’s been in isolation since the first case was detected.’

Over the next few days and the following week they will find out whether or not there has been any ongoing transmission at BCC.

Public health measures to ease in Kinngait

Travel restrictions will also be easing somewhat in Kinngait starting Wednesday with the last two active cases there recovering during the weekend.

“Anyone returning to Kinngait from Iqaluit must continue to isolate for 14 days along with their household,” said Patterson.

Masks will remain mandatory, indoor private gatherings are limited to five people, plus household members. Indoor gatherings in public community spaces, including arenas may allow 50 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is fewer and daycares may open. Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people with physical distancing are permitted.

Solo workouts with masks are allowed wherever fitness sessions are allowed. Up to two people may accompany family members to the health centre along with the patient, children ages two-to-four are encouraged to wear a mask and schools are moving onto stage three of the Dept. of Education’s plan.

“Sharing things like cigarettes increases the risk of spreading and catching COVID-19. Being outside gathering in groups that are not six feet apart, not wearing masks, these are activities that put the entire group at risk,” said Patterson.

There are seven new cases of COVID-19 and nine recovered cases in Nunavut announced today, there are currently 70 active cases, all of which are in Iqaluit.

There have been 107 recoveries reported since this outbreak began last month.

Thus far 16,419 Nunavummiut have received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine, and 12,878 have been fully vaccinated.