Several Nunavut residents with COVID-19 medevaced south this week
“They’re in a hospital in Winnipeg and stable”
A handful of Nunavut residents with COVID-19 have been evacuated to a Winnipeg hospital over the past week, government officials say.
Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, disclosed the medevacs at a Friday news conference, saying there had been “less than five” over the past week.
“We’re not going to discuss numbers and not going to discuss community of origin,” he said.
“They’re in a hospital in Winnipeg and stable.”
When Patterson was asked a similar question earlier this week, on Nov. 30, he said at that time that no Nunavummiut have had to be medevaced south because of COVID-19.
The Government of Nunavut announced eight new cases of COVID-19 in the territory on Friday, all of them in Arviat, bringing that community’s total active cases to 44.
The only other Nunavut community with active COVID-19 cases in Whale Cove, with seven cases. All COVID-19 cases in Rankin Inlet have now recovered.
Territory-wide, there are 51 active COVID-19 cases, while 155 people have now recovered.
“We are moving in the right direction and we can be optimistic,” said Patterson.
“But this does not mean that we can relax on the public health measures and it doesn’t mean that the outbreaks are over.”
Across Canada, more than 396,000 cases have been reported since March when the pandemic began.
With continued talks regarding the possible distribution of a vaccine across the country in the coming weeks, Health Minister Lorne Kusugak said that he has been lobbying his federal, provincial and territorial counterparts to have Nunavut placed on the priority list because of its location and the challenges of delivering vaccines to all 25 communities.
“To deliver the vaccine in our communities, it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort,” Kusugak said.
Vaccine logistics is also a concern for Patterson.
“My best information that I have right now is that that first vaccine will be the Pfizer one that requires storage at -80 C and has very strict shipping limitations,” he said.
“As a result, I don’t know of anyone who thinks it’s really appropriate for most remote or isolated communities to use that vaccine.”
Instead, Patterson believes that the Moderna vaccine will likely be the one to see eventual distribution in the territory.
In March, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. In Nunavut, Nunavik and across the country, public health officials have encouraged physical distancing, hand-washing and wearing masks in public places as measures people should take to prevent the spread of the disease.