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Media Statement: Premier, Ministers provide update and ask for calm as cases in Yellowknife grow

Media Statement

Yellowknife — May 2, 2021

YELLOWKNIFE (May 2, 2021) – Caroline Cochrane, Premier of the Northwest Territories, Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services and R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment issued the following joint statement today on the most recent updates concerning COVID-19 in Yellowknife:

“We know this is a difficult situation Yellowknifers are facing. We have spent the last 14 months working diligently and collectively so we would be prepared to manage COVID-19 cases, protect our residents and communities from the virus, and ensure we maintain the integrity of our health care system in the process. We are ready for this challenge.

“We have spent this time preparing for just this kind of situation and understand what needs to be done to prevent any further spread of the virus. When an outbreak in the community of Fort Liard happened earlier this year, we responded with an immense effort to limit the spread. And we were successful. We all worked together – community leaders, residents, government, health care professionals – to make sure the impact was limited.

“We have done it before, and we can do it again. The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) and the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA), along with government officials from multiple departments, are working together to ensure the correct information gets shared with school parents, residents, and those who may be impacted by the confirmed cases through possible exposure and contact tracing.

“The situation in Yellowknife is unfolding quickly and we do not yet have all the answers. We know this is difficult to hear, but we want to assure you that a tremendous amount of work is going on behind the scenes and as soon as more information is known, Public Health will update NWT residents. We all want to protect our communities and our loved ones, but it’s important that we all remain calm and let our health care professionals do the work that will help keep us protected. We are committed to providing information to residents as soon as we possibly can.

“To the N.J MacPherson School community: the CPHO is asking all staff, students and their families to isolate for 14 days so she can be certain the outbreak has been contained.  This does not mean that those in self-isolation will contract the virus, but this is one of the most effective ways to contain transmission should the virus spread within a household.  

“Household members who are fully vaccinated (two weeks after your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine) can safely carry on with normal activities, including going to work, while being mindful of taking care to physically distance and wear a mask. This applies as long as no one in the household is symptomatic or identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19.

“To students, parents and staff at other Yellowknife schools: we are taking precautions to make sure COVID-19 can’t spread through your schools, too, and have shifted to remote learning for the next two weeks. Nobody needs to be scared, but we all need to be careful and should be monitoring for potential symptoms of the virus.

“To Yellowknife residents: COVID-19 is spread by extended contact with infectious individuals and Public Health is following up with known contacts of the people who have tested positive. If Public Health has not actively reached out to you, you have not been identified as a contact of a case of COVID-19. Where the OCPHO is not able to identify all contacts, it is providing public exposure notifications so people can call in. This list will be updated if further exposures are identified.

“Please be aware that if Public Health has not been in contact to ask that you be tested, and you do not have symptoms, there is no reason to be tested at this time unless you develop symptoms.

“There is going to be a lot of speculation and information in the public realm over the next few days. It’s important you get your information from reputable sources. Rumours and incorrect information only make it more difficult for health officials to respond to this situation. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the GNWT’s COVID-19 response website at https://www.gov.nt.ca/covid-19/

“When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, we made the health and safety of our residents and communities the number one priority of the Government of the Northwest Territories. “That continues to be our main focus and we remain committed to limiting the spread of COVID-19 and increasing vaccination rates so we can eventually return to the things we love.

“It’s important that we all continue to do our part – especially when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable, and those who cannot get vaccinated yet, like our young people.

“Please wash your hands regularly, wear a mask, keep your distance, be kind, and if you haven’t already, get vaccinated as soon as possible. It is our best defence against COVID-19.

“Thank you.”