Nunavut declares territory’s second COVID-19 case in Sanikiluaq
“There is no evidence at this time of community transmission”
The Nunavut government has confirmed a second case of COVID-19 in Sanikiluaq, two days after announcing the community’s–and territory’s–first case.
“The individual is part of the same household as the first positive case, is asymptomatic, isolated and is doing well,” Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said in a news release on Sunday, Nov. 8.
The territory’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Sanikiluaq Friday. A rapid response team, comprising one nurse and one technician, arrived in Sanikiluaq on Saturday to assist health workers already in the community.
As well, a third nurse is being deployed to the community, Patterson said during a news conference Monday.
The extra nurse will help get contact tracing done as quickly as possible to minimize how long the community remains locked down, Patterson said.
The hamlet’s approximately 850 residents have been asked to stay at home and to limit contact with anyone outside their households. Travel to and from the community is restricted.
As of Sunday, 11 people had been identified as “persons being followed,” the release said. On Monday, Patterson said “that number has certainly gone up over the last 24 hours.”
Patterson also said that contact tracing hadn’t identified any high-risk contacts outside of Sanikiluaq, but there are some people now outside the community who are “very low-risk” contacts who have been advised to self-monitor for symptoms.
“While there is no evidence, at this time, of community transmission, I ask the residents of Sanikiluaq to stay vigilant and follow the public health orders,” Patterson said in the release.
“The importance of public health measures cannot be underestimated. Stay at home, do not go visiting and wear a mask in public spaces, such as grocery stores. Together, we can prevent any further spread in the community.”
The Department of Health delivered approximately 700 masks to the community on Friday, Patterson said, which he believes will be distributed by the hamlet.
“With the charter going in and out, we can send in more if needed,” Patterson said.
Some Sanikiluaq residents have expressed concern that the community may run out of cleaning supplies. But Patterson said that “if it’s a definite problem, there are some supplies that we could send to Sanikiluaq to alleviate that shortage.”
The territory’s second COVID-19 case was confirmed by lab results in Iqaluit, unlike the first positive case, which was tested in Winnipeg.
“We can control the turnaround time much more easily if we keep it in territory,” Patterson said.
The turnaround time for getting results from the lab in Iqaluit is less than 24 hours, Patterson said.
“In the midst of trying to sort out community transmission, waiting three to four days to get answers is not appropriate.”
On Friday, Patterson said a flight bound for Sanikiluaq on Sunday had been postponed until more contact tracing could be done. Since then, he said that, as far as he knew, no other flights have been postponed.
Patterson said he didn’t know how many people in travel hubs were waiting to return to Sanikiluaq, but he said some may be able to return to the community as early as Tuesday.
These travel delays are creating backlogs at the medical isolation hub in Winnipeg. If the medical travel hub is full, travellers will instead be directed to Winnipeg’s other isolation hub, Patterson said.
On Sunday, Patterson was informed by Manitoba Public Health that a Nunavut resident in Winnipeg’s medical travel hub had tested positive for COVID-19.
“It is unlikely that this case in Winnipeg is related to the cases in Sanikiluaq,” Patterson said.
“Information currently available points to the individual being exposed to the virus before entering isolation and we believe that there is little risk of transmission to other hotel guests.”
The individual in Winnipeg is doing well and is currently isolating at the hub, Patterson said.
“We have not identified anybody who needs to stay in the hub any longer because of this case,” he said.
The cases in Sanikiluaq are not impacting travel to other communities.
According to the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, the Sanikiluaq COVID-19 cases pose no risk to Nunavik residents. There have been no flights between Nunavik and Sanikiluaq since April.
“I realize that there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty right now,” Patterson said.
“The best thing we can do is work together. If public health nurses are calling, please answer the phone. Your information will be kept confidential. If you have symptoms, it is important that you contact your health centre immediately. Cooperating with the health care workers will help us prevent the spread of this virus.”
Residents are asked not to go to the health centre in person. Anyone who has reason to believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 should 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.