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Contact tracing identifies 12 people connected with presumptive Covid-19 case

"If the additional testing yields a positive result, this will be considered Nunavut’s first confirmed case of Covid-19,” announces Patterson during the Thursday press conference. Rajnesh Sharma/NNSL photo

As of July 1, 12 people have come into contact with a mine worker at Baffinland’s Mary River Mine, near Pond Inlet, who has been classified as a presumptive Covid-19 case.

All these individuals are presently self-isolating on site.

"All potential contacts within the mine site are being identified and placed in isolation and no contact has occurred between Mary River workers and the any of the surrounding communities," said Dr. Michael Patterson at a July 2 press conference.

For privacy reasons, Patterson did not reveal the miner’s personal information or the length of time the individual has been in the territory. However, the doctor shared the miner was not exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19. The miner was tested positive during a routine testing that is undertaken by all miners entering the territory.

“The individual who tested positive recently arrived in the territory for work and was tested twice at the mine site. The tests yielded presumptive positive results on back to back days,” said Patterson.

He explained that all miners are tested at the mine site upon arrival.

"Everybody is tested on Baffinland. They're tested on arrival at the site and then again four to five days later. And, I think they're tested more after that as well," said Patterson.

Mining in Canada is considered an essential industry and miners are not required to self-isolate before entering Nunavut.

Miners from the south fly directly to the mine site, work two to four week rotations and return south, explained Patterson.

A swab will be sent to an Ontario lab to confirm whether the miner is positive for Covid-19.

The swab is supposed to be collected this afternoon, said the chief public health officer.

Patterson said he anticipates to hear test results by early next week.

"Until then, this has been classified as a probable case of Covid-19 for Nunavut. If the additional testing yields a positive result, this will be considered Nunavut’s first confirmed case of Covid-19," said Patterson.

At this time, the Department of Health has not sent any staff to Mary River.

"We would consider sending staff to help out if there's any concerns that there's transmission of Covid-19 happening in the community, or that they're having difficulty with the contact tracing and managing those other public health measures effectively," said Patterson.

This presumptive result does not impact any of the current public health measures in place or Nunavut's Path.

At present, the travel bubble between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is not impacted. "This is an isolated case and it's on Baffin Island and does not present a threat to spreading Covid-19 into Northwest Territories," explained the doctor.

The medical travel bubble established with Churchill, Manitoba also remains open.

Patterson said this probable case is a "stark reminder that Covid-19 is still a very real threat."

"The pandemic is not over and no combination of preventative health measures is 100 per cent effective at keeping Covid-19 out of the territory," he said, adding “I urge Nunavummuit to take this reminder seriously.”

In a July 2 press release, Health Minister George Hickes assured residents that there is a very low chance of community spread.

"All necessary precautions are in place, and workers at the mine have not had any contact with any community members," stated Hickes.

"We wish this individual a quick recovery. Please remember that we all have a role to play in limiting the spread of Covid-19, and now is the time to stay vigilant with our public health measures."

Anyone who has reason to believe they have been exposed to Covid-19 is urged to call the Covid hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., or notify their community health centre right away by phone.