Nunavut COVID-19 tally climbs to 18 as nine new cases reported in Arviat

Community transmission “likely” in Arviat, Health Department says

Arviat mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr. announced by radio Jan. 2 that there are no longer any active cases of COVID-19 in Arviat, nor across the territory. (Submitted photo)

By Jane George

Nunavut has 18 COVID-19 cases after nine new cases were identified in Arviat Sunday.

It brings that community’s caseload to 14, the Government of Nunavut said in a release, with cases also confirmed in Rankin Inlet and Sanikiluaq in the past 10 days. Nunavut has not reported any deaths. Across Canada, there have been 291,931 cases since March and 10,891 deaths.

An additional case was also confirmed Sunday in Rankin Inlet, bringing its cases to two. That new case has been linked to Arviat, where the tally of COVID-19 cases was four on Saturday, Nov. 14.

“Due to the number of cases of COVID-19 in Arviat, anyone from Arviat who left the community on or after Nov. 2 is being asked to immediately isolate for 14 days wherever they are,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.

“In addition, to protect elders in Arviat, there will be no visitors allowed at the elders’ centre for at least two weeks. Exemptions to this rule will need to be approved by the public health doctor on call.”

All individuals with COVID-19 are in isolation and doing well, the GN said.

Rapid response teams are on the ground in Arviat, Rankin Inlet, and Sanikiluaq, where two cases were declared recently, with support from regional and territorial public health teams.

“At this time, there are signs of community transmission in Arviat, but not in Rankin Inlet or Sanikiluaq,” the GN said.

“Community transmission is more likely to occur when there are no clear links that trace how somebody became infected.”

Contact tracing in all three communities continues, with the end goal to trace and contain the virus.

Meanwhile, people in Arviat say they are ready to rally against the new coronavirus.

So much so, that Sunday, at 5 p.m. many planned to risk frostbite to stand outside their doorways and sing.

Arviat woman Madison Kadjuk put out a message on social media for people in her community of about 3,000 to stand outside their doorways at that time and sing the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”

“We did this in March and we were able to hear our neighbours singing and it helped comfort us while we were home,” Kadjuk said.

“I picked this song because it’s such a God-honouring song, it’ll help us come together and give all our worries to God as we sing this song together.”

People in Arviat say they are heeding their hamlet’s call for a curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and the recent Government of Nunavut COVID-19 preventive measures.

“My family and folks that I interact with are being careful to follow the GN guidelines,” Gordy Kidlapik told Nunatsiaq News on Sunday. “We check with each other once in a while just to stay in touch.”

John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, and his wife Amanda Hanson-Main, who have two young sons, said they have cut out all visitors and are staying close to home.

“It’s been quiet after the hamlet request for curfew,” Hanson-Main said. “Kids are missing their friends and school and play dates, for sure. It’s difficult to explain to them why we can’t visit friends or family.”

The change came over Arviat suddenly after the first COVID-19 case in the community was declared on Nov. 13, Main said.

“We went from normalcy to where we are now. We’re back to March and April [when the world began grappling with the global pandemic], to a lockdown. There are no kids in the stores, one shopper per household, masks required all over the place,” Main said.

“It seems a bit surreal to have travelled back five months ago.”

Nearly everyone in town is worried, he said.

“I think the only people who are not worried are the people who don’t know how serious this is, the different scenarios that could play out,” Main said, referring to the sudden increase in cases.

“We don’t know if it’s going to stop there. I am extremely worried given all the other existing challenges we have here around poverty, food security and overcrowding,” Main said.

A recent Nunavut Housing Corp. survey found that in Arviat two in three occupied dwellings are below housing standards, meaning they are either crowded or in need of major repairs or both.

And Arviat’s population is young and dependent—more than one-third are under 15 years of age, and the average age of residents is about 19 years.

Nearly half of Arviat gets by on income support assistance, a recent GN homelessness survey said.

“We’re on a very shaky foundation with respect to social economics,” Main said. “But I have a lot of faith in the community, and I think that’s the big thing we have going for us, to come together.”

Main said he is trying to stay optimistic as much as possible.

“I think we have all the ingredients to contain it. It’s going to come down to the community. If people aren’t adhering to restrictions on a household level and an individual level the virus is going to find a way to sneak here,” Main said.

“We just have to be ruthless and, at the same time, being loving and understand to those affected and the households that are affected. No finger pointing—it has to be the opposite.”

Main said he is confident because of the leadership of the community’s elders.

“When you have unelected folks who are also leaders of their households and families and going on the radio and saying, “Listen, young people this is what you have to do,’ it’s pretty amazing,” he said.

“It’s the grassroots support and effort we need. It goes from elders to church leaders to everybody. That’s the biggest thing we have going for us.”

Meanwhile, people in Arviat have access to 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, which the hamlet has distributed to stores. And Calm Air, which serves Arviat, donated 4,000 masks.

The Canadian Red Cross has also published links to online resources, which are also available in Inuktitut.

The Hamlet of Arviat posted words of encouragement on its Facebook page: “Stay safe & Stay calm Arviamiut we will get through this together as one big strong team.”

Anyone who has reason to believe he or she has been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to call the COVID-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., or notify their community health centre right away, and immediately isolate at home for 14 days. People should not go to the health centre in person.

Nunavut’s chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, will host Arviaqpaluk, Arviat’s community radio show, Monday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The GN scheduled a news conference for Monday at 1 p.m. (postponed from 11 a.m.)  in the legislature on the COVID-19 developments in the territory.

The news conference will also be streamed online. The news conference will be aired on Bell ExpressVu channel 513, Shaw satellite channel 181 or 489 in the classic lineup package, local cable channel 5 or 602, or listen in on the radio in Iqaluit at 92.5 FM.

The GN said it now plans to schedule news conferences three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    I would urge people to follow the advice of Dr. Patterson. If you are not an essential employee in Arviat stay at home and only associate with members of your immediate family. If everyone does this then the virus will not be able to find a new host.
    It takes about two weeks for the life cycle of the virus so if everyone wears a mask, stays 2 meters apart, and washes/sanitizes their hands often then the virus will disappear. Ask yourself, do I really need to go out?
    The GN has been able to keep the virus out of Nunavut for 9 months, now it is up to everyone to help out each other and prevent the virus from being passed from person to person.
    In every community let’s be smart. This is a critical time with the virus running rampant from Quebec to British Columbia. We have a choice, we can be like the Atlantic provinces where the virus is currently under control, or we can be like the other 6 provinces which have lost control and will likely require a full lockdown to get things back under control. This is the real thing folks.
    Let’s be smart. Stay home, stay safe and everyone can get through this together. Keep yourself safe, keep your parents safe. Keep your grandparents safe.

    P.S. Singing (without a mask) is not recommended as it can put more virus in the air.

  2. Posted by Inuit communities on

    My opinion could be fact. It never came big to Inuit communities YET, not because of any great measures of applications by authorities, but just because it never found its way in, UNTIL now. It’s scary, oh yes, non believers, I know you’re there. It’s scary because it’s going to be big in our communities. This world is full of ignorance and it’s about to show us how big. Just watch Nunavik, Nunavut.

    • Posted by K on

      Don’t undersell the restrictions: they did work. From the very beginning it was made clear that it was almost inevitable that COVID-19 would arrive in Nunavut, and that everything that was being done, from the travel restrictions to mines sending Nunavut workers home, had only one goal; to buy time. We bought seven months that a lot of other places never had.

  3. Posted by Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc on

    Frightening how fast it has blown up in Arviat. If there are 14 known cases there are almost certainly more unknown cases around and these are the danger. I hope everyone takes this seriously and this comes under control soon. Some good thoughts and perspectives offered here by John Main.

  4. Posted by Inuvunga on

    Those who wants to go home from isolation hub in Winnipeg, have you been keeping your distance? By reading the comments, there are complains about the securities and hotel employees from people who are in quarantine. Just keep your distance, wear your masks and stop complaining and stop blaming for those who try to keep an eye on you to make sure you’re six feet apart. Help them by keeping your distance. Just appreciate them for doing their job to keep you safe.

  5. Posted by Name withheld on

    I am looking back at the previous news in isolations hubs where the GN was sending patients home right after their appt, Yes this is saving the GN a lot more where they don’t need to spend two weeks worth of hotel and meals anymore for a individual if they are sent home right away, is this something the hotel don’t like ? Is this something worth looking at? Or carelessness of the patient I.e. not washing hands etc. I think all appts should be cancelled and rebooked unless it’s necessary to go. Like some follow ups can easily be done by phone I’m sure the individual would understand of such cases

  6. Posted by inuk kivalliq on

    The isolation hub are doing just fine, last Wednesday there was a cancelled flight from Winnipeg to Rankin Inlet due to runway problem, and all the patients were rebooked to next day and came back to Nunavut.
    They were to be tested vigorously, and the GN did a poor job of maintaining the highest safety protocol.

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