Coronavirus reaches Nunavik community of Inukjuak
“We acknowledge that having a case in a new community can be stressful”
The new coronavirus has reached another Nunavik community: the Hudson Bay community of Inukjuak, which has a population of about 1,800.
“This brings the total of cases in Nunavik to 14, of which five have now recovered from the virus,” the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services said in a social media update on Sunday, April 19.
“The individual was already in isolation upon learning the diagnosis and will remain home while being monitored daily by health professionals. As per protocol, public health authorities launched their investigation.
“We acknowledge that having a case in a new community can be stressful, however, everyone should continue to follow the measures in place to reduce the risk of spreading.”
Nunavik is likely to see more cases of COVID-19, Dr. Marie Rochette, Nunavik’s director of the public health, told Nunatsiaq News this weekend, before the latest case was declared.
“The infection is so contagious, and so many people have it outside the region, that we expect to have other cases,” Rochette said.
That’s despite preventive measures taken by the region, including an air travel lockdown.
“Sometimes people can be sick and not have symptoms, but still transmit the infection,” said Rochette. “We have to be very vigilant.”
But keeping the region closed, as it is right now, also has negative consequences, Rochette said: there would be no more housing construction, increased overcrowding and an impact on the mental health of youth, in particular.
“How long can we keep the region locked down? Can we maintain this until we get a vaccine? These are hard questions we need to think about, how life can resume, but trying to protect people the best we can,” she said.
The good news is that, as far as Nunavik public health officials know, there continue to be no infections of COVID-19 by community transmission.
Community transmission means a person who develops an infection has not come into contact with an infected person.
“At the moment, we have no evidence of community transmission,” Rochette said.
The cases in Puvirnituq are not linked to the case in Salluit, and are “completely separate,” she said.
“They are really two different cases of people who came from outside and brought the infection with them from outside the region,” Rochette said.
Tests carried out in these two communities among people who weren’t in close contact with the original two cases did not show any positive results for COVID-19.
“Right now in Puvirnituq … we can make a link between the cases, because they are people who lived together or in the same house, or they visited because they were close friends and relatives,” Rochette said.
All but one person who tested positive with COVID-19 have remained in their home, following public health recommendations that say people who aren’t that sick should stay at home when possible, she said.
One remains in Puvirnirtuq’s Inuulitsivik hospital.
Rochette said the health board won’t do tests on the people who have been in close contact with a person with a confirmed COVID-19 lab test, but if it’s someone who visited that person “we will do a test,” she said.
Rochette said the health board is still “a bit limited in the number of tests we can do.”
“Maybe in a few weeks if we have more capacity we will do more,” she said. “We were one of the first regions to get tests at the hospital. We started last week and will get more [kits] next week and we will increase the number of tests.”
Until Sunday, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavik outside Puvirnituq and Salluit.
“We have done tests in other communities and on people who have symptoms and these not have come back positive, so that’s a good sign,” Rochette said.
As of April 19, there were 18,357 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quebec, many among older residents of long-term care facilities.
No cases have yet been detected in Nunavik’s elders’ residences, Rochette said.
As for personal protection equipment, Rochette said that Nunavik has to make “judicious use” of it, because supplies are limited, she said.
If you are in Nunavik and have symptoms and are concerned that you may have COVID-19, call the number below to speak to a nurse in Inuktitut, English or French. The health line is intended to help those who may need to be screened for COVID-19 and to answer medical concerns related to COVID-19.
• COVID-19 HEALTH LINE: 1-888-662-7482
Monday to Sunday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
If you are in Nunavik and have general questions about COVID-19, you can call the number below to speak to a health board worker. The line is intended to keep Nunavimmiut informed and answer general questions about subjects such as anxiety and stress related to COVID-19.
• COVID-19 INFO LINE: 1-833-301-0296
Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.