The Government of Nunavut announced Jan. 6 that it would no longer be reporting individual Covid-19 infections, choosing instead to “manage our resources to balance Covid-19 response with Nunavummiut’s access to other essential health-care services,” according to Health Minister John Main.
Rather than tell the public how many individuals have taken ill and keeping accurate statistics, it’s time to simply assume that everyone in a household is affected once one person tests positive. Beyond that, if any symptoms appear all, members of the household with symptoms are assumed Covid-19 positive and there will be no confirmatory testing required.
While it may be easier for the government to keep track of households instead of individuals, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the spread of the virus, especially as the size of households can vary wildly, regardless of the size of the dwelling.
Rapid antigen tests – on request from the federal government – are expected to be delivered in the coming week, with enough tests for four per person. Some will be available at gateway airports such as Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Yellowknife, Sanikiluaq, Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit. Travellers are to take the tests on days 6 and 14 of their isolation.
It’s understandable that the volume of confirmatory testing was reaching critical mass – and as chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson stated, “something had to give,” but it’s a disappointing choice from an accountability standpoint.
As of Jan. 6, there were 244 active Covid-19 cases registered across the territory that have led to six hospitalizations. Iqaluit had the highest number thus far in the current outbreak, peaking at 86 cases and reporting 72 active cases on Jan. 6. There were 48 in Arviat, 45 in Rankin Inlet, 20 in Pangnirtung, 18 in Iglulik, 17 in Sanirajak, six in Qikiqtarjuaq, two in Chesterfield Inlet and one each confirmed in Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay and Pond Inlet. There is also a presumptive case in Sanikiluaq.
The majority of these cases have been identified as the Omicron variant.
Not tracking the number of cases directly reflects the territory’s inability to deal with the number of cases cropping up.
Fewer people are being admitted to hospital with Omicron, largely thanks to vaccination efforts, however if the number of cases gets high enough, then hospitalization still becomes a major concern, particularly in a territory with so few beds and ventilators, and a need to airlift critical patients south for treatment.
Now more than ever, in what feels like another in a long list of information deficits and with shortages in crucial personal protective equipment and health staff, it is imperative that Nunavummiut do their best to follow public health orders.
If we cannot be armed with all the information, then we must strive to get through this latest crisis with minimal casualties.
This means masking up if you must leave the house, maintaining good hand hygiene habits, keeping up with routine cleaning of high-touch surfaces, maintaining social distance and staying home whenever possible.
As easy as it may feel to lose heart, remain positive that we will get through this once again. Make use of the helplines available if you need extra support, and stay connected while apart from loved ones.
It’s been exhausting so far, but now that we are experiencing the outbreak that all our careful measures were striving to prevent, we must redouble our efforts, as we did in April 2020, to keep as many Nunavummiut safe as possible.