As of Tuesday, Nunavut has 23 active cases of COVID-19, all in the hard-hit community of Arviat. (File image)

In-home gatherings caused Nunavut’s latest COVID-19 cases, says top doctor

Some residents fighting virus had received first dose of vaccine but hadn’t yet developed immunity

By Dustin Patar

Updated at 4:55 p.m.

The latest COVID-19 cases in Arviat appear to stem from residents gatherings in homes and not from an outside source, says Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson.

On Monday, the Government of Nunavut announced two new cases in Arviat, bringing the hamlet’s total number of cases to 17.

During a news conference that day, Patterson urged residents to follow public health measures. That includes “keeping gatherings small, avoiding visiting multiple households and limiting the number of households your visitors are from,” he said.

Some of the residents now fighting infections of the virus had received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, Patterson said.

But because the vaccine was administered so recently, those who received it had not yet developed the protection it provides, he said.

“It’s not a vaccine failure,” he said. “It takes about two weeks before the first dose provides 80 per cent protection from developing serious infection.”

A second dose increases protection to about 94 per cent.

Monday was the fourth consecutive day new COVID-19 cases have been reported — all of them in Arviat. The new outbreak comes after nearly a month of no new cases being detected in the territory.

Arviat is Nunavut’s hardest-hit community, after the potentially fatal respiratory disease arrived in the territory in November. As of Monday, 238 people out of Arviat’s population of approximately 2,600 have tested positive. Most of them — 220 — have recovered but one man died in December.

Health officials say the recently diagnosed people are asymptomatic, doing well and are isolating.

The new cases were first discovered during surveillance testing, a routine part of following up on the last outbreak, said Patterson.

“It gives us the chance of catching something like this before it gets out of control,” he said.

On Sunday, health restrictions in Arviat were tightened in response to the spike in cases since Friday.

Travel to and from the community is restricted, schools are closed, all gatherings and non-essential services are suspended and indoor gatherings are restricted to household members only.

As well, medical travel from Arviat to Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit is currently suspended, Patterson said. “Appointments that can be done virtually will be and those patients that require an appointment will be sent to Winnipeg,” he said.

Arviat residents currently in southern isolation hubs have been given the option to remain in isolation for the time being.

According to the Department of Health, 69 per cent of Arviat residents who were eligible to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine did so.

Arviat is slated to have its next vaccination clinics Feb. 11 to 13 and on Feb. 15.

Patterson said the clinics were set up and designed from the beginning to function in a way that would minimize the risk of spreading the virus.

“We can never make the risk zero, but we think we can manage the risk well enough that the benefits of getting the second dose into everyone on time will be much greater than the risks of a little bit of further spreading,” he said.

Additional health staff are being sent to Arviat by Tuesday.

Anyone who has travelled to or from Arviat since Jan. 19 is being asked to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms. They’re also asked to contact their local health centre or Iqaluit Public Health to help with contact tracing and monitoring.

Patterson also announced three new vaccine clinics:

  • Feb. 8-9: Sanikiluaq
  • Feb. 15-16: Naujaat
  • Feb. 22-24: Kinngait

Residents in these communities can call their health centre to book an appointment.

According to the Government of Nunavut’s online tracker, as of Jan. 25 more than 4,455 residents have received the vaccine.

For more information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, including community-specific information and vaccination schedules, visit the Government of Nunavut’s website.


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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by hermann kliest on

    not “gathering at homes”. The GN rules to relaxed the lock-down were too soon. as soon as zero was attained a nod was given as safe, then community declared itself safe (by officials)….Its not even 28th of Jan yet, a critical deadline that was previously set for relaxing rules that were mentioned as target date…

    • Posted by true dat! on

      yes! Paterson lifted it too early and it was him to said it should be 28 days after the last person was infected to declare the outbreak over. Arviatmiut is not at fault here, they went with what Paterson said, outbreak over, restriction lifted so they can visit. not full on party but still allowed to visit. And now Arviatmiut is being “punished” with all these restrictions when its clearly GN/Paterson’s fault. Paterson had mentioned about education and children, then why are schools in Kitikmeot and Baffin still in stage 2? Haven’t heard from Minister Joanasie in a while.

    • Posted by be yourself on

      Correct. People need to understand this and GN needs to acknowledge it as well. it is not their fault and never was.

  2. Posted by Name withheld on

    I think it has to do with a travel from south as they are asking anyone to self isolate for those who travel on Jan 19.

    What ever happen to the rapid testing in the hubs?

    Considering they have lifted the restrictions in MB. those in isolation hubs aren’t allowed to go out etc so it has to be coming from either Hilton or Best Western hotels staff members

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Incorrect! Look closer to home for the reason. This is a continuation of the outbreak that started before Christmas. People thought they had this beat, stopped getting tested and stopped distancing and voila another outbreak.

      • Posted by be yourself on

        Do you want some facts to go with that FAKE NEWS??????

        Arviamiut continue to follow CPHO guidelines.

  3. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    The Gn needs to test everyone in Arviat since several assymptomatic people are spreading the illness. You are now asking people who have symptoms to call the Covid number or health centers. That is the problem, several people are assymptomatic and spreading the virus. They dont know they are sick!!! duh! I am now worried for Rankin Inlet as several people have travelled here ( and other Nunavut communities maybe?) from Arviat and viceversa since you lifted the travel ban which you obviously did too soon ( Before Jan 28th!!!). maybe it is time again for another circuit breaker in kivalliq or Whale Cove Rankin As snowmobiles were travelling back and forth to the southern Kivalliq communities

  4. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    One last comment Like TB treatment where there are strict enforcement measures for treatment, the same should be for Covid. testing should be mandatory not optional. This is a very serious disease like TB.

  5. Posted by halfbreed on

    Arviatmieot stay home..period…………………

    • Posted by be yourself on

      as he looks down his nose pointing his finger…..

      understand the situation before you play the shame game

  6. Posted by Wake up on

    Wake up GN! Get your things in order and stop being so irresponsible! Not enough testing, lifting restrictions way too early jeopardizing everyone in Arviat, the region and the rest of Nunavut.
    Try handling this better, we have been very lucky so far, with flights out of Arviat last week, some full of people leaving Arviat, what are you doing to test people that might of been in contact in Rankin and the rest of the communities that people visited coming from Arviat?
    Our luck will run out when this virus starts spreading to other communities because of the GNs handling of this.
    How can a community that has Covid have the restrictions lifted so soon and have so many people travel to and from this community be allowed? Where is the common sense and the rational thinking? Is there a body or committee in the GN medical that decides on what to do next? They really need to do a better job before our luck runs out. So concerning!

  7. Posted by Mack on

    Hate the fact that ppl of arviat call into radio station and saying to wash up.. we are we aren’t the 1s with covid cases

  8. Posted by Truth Teller on

    Stop printing misleading articles! As someone living in this town. The government acts like they don’t know how it happened and people gathering is being blamed for the spread. The government removed the restrictions in place, one week after our last covid case recovered. 1 week! So yeah, of course people gathered cause they were told it was safe to do so. This article is placing blame on the residents. All the facts are not in here. It’s crazy seeing the narrative being portrayed with key facts being left out. They never should have lifted restrictions until we were all vaccinated. They knew people could be asymptomatic and they lifted restrictions. They did not test the population before lifting restrictions. A couple random swabs is why they even got lucky finding it again. It never left here. And the idiots making these decisions are putting lives at risk. So infuriating. Who knows how many are going to suffer this wave because of poor government decisions.

  9. Posted by Simmering on

    Why is it always the GN or somebody else who is at fault? When are people going to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror and admit that they are a part of the problem and not part of the solution. Even though you might not get sick from Covid, your lively hood might be gone. It’s a shame most only think about themselves. We say our values are different. But really, we are just like every other person in Canada and the world.

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