Updated: Public health officer recommends that Nunavut schools and daycares close

“It is with an over-abundance of caution that I have made this recommendation”

Nanook School in Apex is closed today. Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, has recommended the closure of the territory’s schools and daycares for the next three weeks. (File photo)

By Meagan Deuling

Updated March 16, 11;49 a.m.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, has recommended the temporary closure of all schools and daycares in Nunavut to limit any potential spread of COVID-19.

These closures are effective starting Tuesday, March 17, for a three-week period, according to a news release that was issued today.

In the release Patterson said, “It is with an over-abundance of caution that I have made this recommendation.”

He added, “While there are still no confirmed cases in Nunavut, this approach aligns with preventive measures in several jurisdictions across the country and ensures the potential spread of COVID-19 is mitigated.”

The release included the information that during this period when schools and daycares are closed across the territory, “affected Government of Nunavut employees will be accommodated and are encouraged to work flex hours or work from home.”

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

In the release, Nunavummiut are reminded to wash your hands, often, for at least 20 seconds; cough and sneeze into your elbow; stay home if you feel sick; and call your health centre if you have symptoms.

The release also said that families should avoid group gatherings and remain at home as much as possible.

Current school closures

Nanook School in Apex and École des Trois-Soleils in Iqaluit are already closed today and tomorrow, following decisions by their local school authorities.

In an emergency meeting on Sunday evening, members of the Apex District Education Authority, and the Commission Scolaire Francophone du Nunavut voted to suspend classes due to concerns over the escalation of the COVID-19 virus.

On a post to its Facebook page, the Apex DEA wrote that the closure was temporary, and that they would meet with the Department of Education and Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, to determine a longer-term measure to protect students against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The CSFN posted that the decision was made under section 145 (e) of the Education Act. This states that DEAs may “temporarily close a school for health or safety reasons.”

Vous avez le droit à l'égalité de traitement, Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal

The Iqaluit DEA also met on Sunday night, but its members voted to keep Aqsarniit, Joamie, Inuksuk and Nakasuk schools open until an announcement was made by the chief public health officer.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by John K on

    I hear Aqsarniit is sitting at less than 50% capacity today. My friend’s son’s class had 5 students this morning.

  2. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    Here’s the choice, close all schools now for 1-3 weeks until we see if the Covid-19 virus infects people in Nunavut, or keep the schools open and suffer a huge problem if the virus is already in Nunavut but undetected.
    Given the time it will take to get any test results it will be 4-5 days before a suspected case of Covid-19 infection is confirmed. By that time the infection will have established itself in the population and there will be community spread.
    My advice, for that it is worth since I am not a doctor or medical professional, is that we close schools, all non essential businesses, and limit all travel for a minimum of 3 weeks. In that time we will have a better idea of the situation.
    Yes it is drastic but that is what was needed in China to stem the spread. The Canadian government is being too slow to shut down the borders, and the country. Just my opinion but as the saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (sorry for not being metric).

  3. Posted by Concerned for kids on

    What will happen to kids who rely on school meals? Is there a plan to support them whe they are not in school?

    • Posted by The Old Trapper on

      The DEA should look at continuing the school lunch programs if they have the kitchen space. Just switch to take out instead of dine in. Have kids come in from 11:00 am – 1 pm to pick-up food, or go grades 1-4 11:00 – 11:30, grades 5-8 11:30 – 12:00, 9-12 12:00 – 12:30, 12:30 – 13:00 for anyone who missed their time slot (or slept in).
      For those running a breakfast program same idea.
      You would want to have a few people monitor any lines and make sure that kids social distance and don’t hang around playing with their friends.
      It can be done. Maybe those employees that are not required at their work can supervise?

  4. Posted by Reality on

    Will people in Nunavut really be successful at social distancing though? Even with TB, people are unable to isolate for 2 weeks, even when it’s just one person, and that disease has run rampant for over 15 years. I don’t think closing schools will help much as the kids will keep going from house to house and playing with other kids outside. It’s one of those things that sounds like the right thing to do, but in Nunavut might not be.

    • Posted by The Old Trapper on

      “Will people in Nunavut really be successful at social distancing though?”
      Probably not due to the housing shortage and overcrowding in Nunavut, the fact the most homes are multi-generational (babies, children, teens, adults, seniors). It’s going to be a problem.
      I imagine that kids will be a great vector for the virus if it does come to Nunavut as apparently they show few signs of infection yet can be carriers. Now if the time to educate adults and children how to social distance, reaffirm hand washing.
      And please, if you are at all sick, stay away from elders as they are most susceptible.

      • Posted by Uvaali on

        Huh? Not only does my aging mother need me to help out but loneliness is something no one seems to recognize which could be bigger then any illness. If any elder becomes ill, do not stay away from them but find a way to help them get better.

  5. Posted by parent on

    The headline says RECOMMENDS, and then the article states the closure dates.
    Just fix the headline to say Closes.
    This is the domino effect, when will the stores be forced to close because people cannot self isolate will congreate at the stores. Look at NM Tim Hortons and the porch. People hanging around all day.
    Soup kitchen not serving meals on Friday and Saturdays. Lots of familys are going to be hungry.

  6. Posted by Northern Guy on

    The virus will come here. It is just a matter of time so we need to be prepared.

  7. Posted by Jason on

    Wondering if we can find out how the IDEA members voted on school closures. It hasn’t been reported anywhere. It would be great to know that so I know who to vote or not vote for during the next election.

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