Dr. Andy Delli Pizzi: Presumptive COVID-19 Tests in the NWT

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — October 16, 2020

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Good afternoon everyone.

I would like to begin with an update on the presumptive tests received by two people in Yellowknife.

Both individuals are part of the same household. One had traveled, while one had not. All isolation protocols seem to have been followed. The individual who had traveled isolated. The individual who had not traveled kept their distance in the home. And they isolated as soon as the other individual developed symptoms as-required.

But unfortunately, the individual who had not traveled still contracted COVID-19, and there are some contacts we are contacting, and getting the advice they need.

We do need to provide public notification of one location because we have identified as having some exposure risk.

If you were at Anytime Fitness in Yellowknife on October 12 between and 3 and 4:30pm, you must self-isolate at home for the next 14 days.

Those you live with must also self-isolate for 14 days.

During this period, you must self-monitor for symptoms closely. If you develop any of the following symptoms, no matter how mild, we are asking you contact the Yellowknife Public Health Unit to be assessed.

  • Fever
  • New or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Malaise (generally feeling unwell)
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Loss of appetite

If you are experiencing shortness of breath at-rest, call 9-1-1 - and let them know you may have had an exposure to COVID-19.

I would like to stress that a public notice is not abnormal. We provide these notices not because we believe there is a high-risk, but because there is some risk.

We are ready to test those who develop symptoms quickly, and provide the right advice. We have expanded our drive-thru testing hours in Yellowknife this weekend from 12-4pm on Saturday and Sunday.

If you do not have symptoms, you do not need to get tested. Isolating at home will keep you and others safe.

This is a standard situation in public health. And we have shown we are ready to manage these events during this pandemic.

There were seventy contact associated with the first confirmed COVID-19 case. This was before our travel restrictions and isolation protocols were implemented.

By moving quickly, we kept our communities safe, and avoided an outbreak. We will take every necessary step in this case once again. And I want to assure residents across our territory that today, we are safe.

We allow isolation in a household with others so long as no one has symptoms, and as long as physical distancing measures and enhanced cleaning procedures are followed, because pandemic response is all about balance.

We are in a low-prevalence environment. The additional disruption of locking everyone in a household down because one had traveled keeps people from essential elements in their lives, and may cause undue social and mental harm.

In every decision we make, we weigh the potential harms, with the protective value of public health measures, and the risk of the virus itself.

And if the situation changes, we will always revisit our guidance – because we need to be nimble and adapt in the face of a virus like COVID-19.

The presumptive test we received in Inuvik has been thoroughly investigated. We have identified no contacts, and have determined there is no exposure risk to any communities along the route traveled.

These three presumptive tests has been sent to a partner public health laboratory in Alberta for confirmation. This is required because the new devices which have decreased our turnaround times have been validated for negative tests, but have not yet been validated for positive tests.

This is simply because there have not been many positive tests up here. But as far as public health, it is not material because we treat any presumptive positive test as though it has been confirmed.

We will update the public when we have received confirmatory results. We are hoping they are back by Saturday.

I know many are wondering whether this will mean a change in our public health orders, or whether we are considering transitioning to an earlier phase.

Our best judgement is that this situation is manageable, and there is no need to alter our overarching approach at this time.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update if there are any changes.

I want to finish by echoing Minister Green’s comments. While prioritizing physical distancing, wearing a mask when it’s tough, hand-washing, keeping crowds small and spaces large, and sticking to isolation when required may not be exciting, they are fundamental steps to keeping each other safe.

We get to control whether we take these steps. It does not depend on others. Even if others choose not to take precautions, we can still take them ourselves. And we know they work.

So let’s all do our part as we weather this pandemic together.