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Dr. Kami Kandola: COVID 19 Update

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — May 3, 2021

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Good morning everyone.

NWT residents – you have done a remarkable job being resilient and helping fight COVID-19 the past 13 months.

Now we’ve hit a challenging period in our pandemic response.

Over the past three days we have announced eight confirmed COVID-19 infections at N.J. Macpherson School and declared an outbreak at this school. Local public health staff are currently working on identifying all contacts to these cases as well as the additional 11 probable cases.

This outbreak comes on the heels of a Yellowknife cluster of five COVID-19 infections picked up by wastewater testing surveillance announced on April 19, 2021. I am thankful that all four of the five cases related to the Yellowknife cluster have now fully recovered.

However, with respect to this new outbreak at N.J. Macpherson School, we need to take strong actions.

Those actions include closing all schools in Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilo to in-class learning until further notice. There have been many contacts and exposures involving multiple Yellowknife-based schools.

Students will shift to remote learning while schools are closed.

All extracurricular, club and sports activities for kids under the age of 18 are also suspended for the time being.

I have also issued a public health order that wearing a non-medical mask in all indoor public spaces is mandatory – except when you are eating or drinking.

We are also recommending non-essential travel in and out of Yellowknife be cancelled or deferred at this time.

However, if you have necessary medical appointments in Yellowknife, we ask that you attend those. Do not cancel or defer them – if possible.

Afterschool care programs are suspended until further notice.

All daycare and day homes are able to stay open, unless impacted by school closures or those that have received public health direction to close. The OCPHO considers them an essential service at this time. The public will have to check with individual day homes to find out if they are open or not. As, stated, the OCPHO has not mandated the closure of day homes and daycares other than those impacted by the School Closure and outbreak declaration.

We are also strongly encouraging employees to work remotely if they can.

I know these measures will impact many people in Yellowknife and in our territory.

It impacts our children’s education, parent’s work schedules and child care opportunities, social activities, employers running businesses and more.

These are not easy decisions. Nobody wants to close schools to in-class learning or suspend extracurricular activities for our kids.

But they are necessary right now.

With the growing number of cases and contacts, we need to do all we can to stop transmission in the highest risk areas.

It was imperative that we put into place strong measures quickly and notify the public of the growing list of public exposure risks.

I also want to clarify direction for household members of student and staff at N.J. Macpherson School. As a result of the evolving situation, all students, staff and volunteers attending during the week of of April 26-30 are now considered close contacts. This means that all household members must isolate too.

Only if you are an essential worker and are fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks after your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, may you seek permission to go to work. You must review your circumstances with your employer and then apply to ProtectNWT for permission to go to work. If granted, you will be required to isolate outside of work. And, this only applies while you don’t have symptoms and neither does anyone else in your household. This is a shift from earlier guidance that all fully-vaccinated household members can go to work. If there are essential workers that are not fully vaccinated or have specific circumstances, they should they should contact Protect NWT to have their situation reviewed.

Children under the age of 18 are an unvaccinated portion of our population and we must protect them.

We are confident these temporary measures will do that.

And we are confident they will be effective in protecting the rest of Yellowknife as well.

This is also a good time to stress that fighting COVID-19 is a collective effort and we need to be extra vigilant at this time in doing the things we know work to stop the spread of this virus.

Those things are:

  • Keeping physical distance of at least six feet or two metres.
  • Wearing masks when you’re out.
  • Keeping crowds small, and spaces large.
  • Washing your hands frequently.
  • Staying home if you’re feeling even a little sick.
  • Calling your healthcare provider or local health centre to be assessed if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Limiting indoor household gatherings to no more than five regular visitors to a maximum of 10 people in the household at any given time.
  • Keep gatherings small.
  • And self-isolating responsibly whenever required.

Let’s not forget to get vaccinated.

Vaccines will help us defeat COVID-19 and get back to doing the things that we love.

The vaccine is here and it’s safe, effective, and available.

Make an appointment if you haven’t already.

If you have received your first dose, make sure you book an appointment for your second dose.

You are not fully vaccinated until two weeks after your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As we continue to respond to this pandemic, I want to thank everyone who continue to come forward to get tested for COVID-19 and provide information to public health staff when new cases are identified.

By doing this you are helping keep your family, friends and communities safe. We can’t fight – and defeat – COVID-19 without our residents doing these things.  

I also want to thank our health care staff for working with our residents to help them navigate this difficult time.

It’s not an easy job. But in a pandemic it’s a vitally important one. I want you to know your efforts have not gone unnoticed.

This isn’t the first challenge our territory has faced during the pandemic. It likely won’t be the last.

But we have overcome those challenges in the past. And we’ll overcome this one, too.

Let’s continue to stick together.

Let’s continue to be kind to one another and help one another.

Let’s get vaccinated – if you haven’t already.

Let’s follow the public health measures – both the ones we’ve just announced and the others that have been in place for some time.

By doing these things we’ll get through this.

Together we can defeat COVID-19.