A total of five Nunavummiut have died from COVID-19 as of Jan. 5, but only one of those deaths has been reported in territorial government statistics. The Nunavut government says it’s still working out how report deaths that happened outside the territory. (File image)

Nunavut government wrestles with how to report COVID-19 deaths

Five Nunavummiut have died of COVID-19, but territory’s death count sits at one

By Sarah Rogers

A total of five Nunavummiut have died from COVID-19, a figure the Government of Nunavut made public for the first time Tuesday morning.

But most of those deaths have yet to make their way to official statistics, because the territory is still working to determine in which jurisdiction they should be reported.

Four contracted the virus in southern Canada, Premier Joe Savikataaq said at a Jan. 5 news conference in Iqaluit. None were linked to any outbreaks of the virus in Nunavut.

“It’s likely those deaths will be recorded in those jurisdictions,” Savikataaq said.

Arviat resident Luki Sammurtok, who contracted COVID-19 in Nunavut, died in a Winnipeg hospital Dec. 19. He is the only person to be included in the territory’s statistics for COVID-19 deaths.

Another Nunavut resident, from Rankin Inlet, died from COVID-19 the same day and was initially counted as a second Nunavut COVID-19 death. But because the man is believed to have contracted the virus outside the territory, the territorial government later revised its statistics to report just a single death.

Over the weekend, a 35-year-old woman from Sanikiluaq died in a Winnipeg hospital, more than a month after she was infected with COVID-19.

The identities and circumstances of the remaining two Nunavummiut who died of COVID-19 remain unclear.

In a Jan. 4 email from the Manitoba government, a provincial spokesperson said out-of-province COVID-19 cases and deaths are not included in its own data reporting, meaning deaths like Qavvik’s are not being reported in either jurisdiction.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said as far as he’s aware, Manitoba and Nunavut have yet to finalize how they plan to attribute those deaths.

“The direction of the premier and the ministers of health is that we should be as transparent as possible in all aspects of our response to COVID-19, and we intend to do that with all deaths,” he said on Jan. 5.

“The question is really ensuring that they’re all properly reported in the federal data sets, so not only are deaths not lost but that they’re not reported more than once.”

When someone who lives in Nunavut is infected with COVID-19 and treated in the south, Patterson said there are different factors to consider, like the information the patient gives to the treating health-care providers and contact tracers, and how long they’ve been outside the territory.

“That is the work needed to ensure that, by the end of the pandemic, we have clean data that everyone can make sense of,” Patterson said.

“It’s not intended in any way, shape or form as a comment that some deaths in Nunavut count more than others.”

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Umilik on

    If the person contracted the virus outside of Nunavut and died outside of Nunavut, then the statistic should not count for Nunavut. It seems that Manitoba’s mismanagement of the virus is to blame for all of this.

  2. Posted by Uvaali on

    If someone claims to be Nunavunmiutat, they are ours.

  3. Posted by northbaffin on

    i would like to know how many people FROM nunavut have died from covid, no matter from where they contracted it, i’m sure its a much much higher number.

    if they have a nunavut health care card and died from it, it should be noted!

  4. Posted by Unreal! on

    Why shouldn’t the death of the Sanikiluaq woman counted against nunavut death? She was sent to Winnipeg to deliver her baby due to lack of maternal care in the community. Yes she did get it after a month after she went down but when she pleaded to come home, we know it wasn’t going to happen. It’s supposed to be a joyous day for her family, a birth of a child. And now GN is not even counting this when she was sent down by the GN in the first place! If sani was included in the nunavut bubble when we were Covid free those many months, this woman’s death could have been avoided if there was a flight from sani to Iqaluit avoiding the south.

  5. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    If the person has a Nunavut Health care card and is a resident by law of Nunavut, is down south for medical services no matter where they are, same with Nunavut students studying outside Nunavut and still have a valid Nunavut health care card then they should be counted as ours. We the public should know about all Nunavumiut deaths from Covid 19 by community, no need for names. You need to be transparent about this. Same goes for the poor Nunavut elders at the old folks home in Ottawa and possibly other Canadian cities. They are down there not by their choice, they are still Nunavumiut. It is not their fault that Nunavut cannot take care of them. this also applies for Nunavut people who are forced to live down south because there is no dyalasis machines in Nunavut or any other medical equipment we do not have here in Nunavut.

    • Posted by Agree on

      Totally agree

  6. Posted by George on

    People have died and that’s a tragedy, especially when we are (or should be!) close to receiving the vaccine.
    But who cares which jurisdiction wants, or does not want, to claim this grisly statistic?
    What we all want to know is when we’ll be vaccinated. Apparently, Nunatsiaq News has chosen to ignore that part of the press conference held earlier today. CBC’s website has reported on the meager details of the vaccination plan, which wasn’t very complete but was at least something.

    • Posted by Unbelievable on

      I watched as every question from the media being asked had already answered in the general address from DrP. Come on guys, can you ask something eliciting novel information not already said?
      Why are they no dates for Iqaluit for anyone but the small amount of people in the care home? Why are they vaccinating people first instead of Frontline workers? Is the plan to do every community before Iqaluit? Will vaccinated people be entitled to non essential travel? Are the hubs going away?
      This was the most sparsely made plan I have ever heard and at this rate people in Ottawa will be vaccinated before Iqaluit.

    • Posted by Vaccine plan? on

      Nunavut is the only canadian territory that hasn’t started yet to vaccinate its population. Fact

      • Posted by Eskimo Joe on

        I don’t see this as a bad thing. Do you applaud the first person to drive a skidoo on the ocean ice?

        • Posted by Wait… what? on

          “Do you applaud the first person who drives a skidoo on ocean Ice?”

          Bad comparison considering you are claiming that COVID isn’t more debilitating and deadly as the vaccine.

    • Posted by Who cares on

      This makes no difference at all. Who cares which jurisdiction actually claims the deaths. There have been deaths across the country with COVID, no matter where, Nunavut had been fortunate in that we have had few deaths overall in the scheme of things. How do we protect those jurisdictions that are less fortunate?

  7. Posted by Kpik inuk 66 on

    There trying to put this away so one day they don’t have to pay for legal reasons

  8. Posted by Fact Checker on

    If someone travels to Greenland and falls into a glacial crevasse, would the statistic count for Canada or Greenland? If a Nunavummuit travels to Uganda and gets eaten by a Hippo; would the statistic count for Uganda or Nunavut?
    Unless the Hippo bites the Nunavummuit in Nunavut; the statistic should remain in Uganda.
    Maybe a specific section for Nunavummiut travelers that died away from home?

    • Posted by Hippos don’t eat people. on

      Hippos don’t eat people but I get what you mean.

      Although I don’t agree with it for a certain number of reasons on the fact that people don’t sign up to get sick or be eaten by animals. They travel essentially to get treated and catch COVID. They are technically (without choice) sent south by a government who now refuses to put an essential hospital in Nunavut. This is a big screw up on their part considering that they’ve gotten billions in funding but refuse to make one that can handle the population.

      Personnel might be short and too little too late now, but it was possible before. How much do you think the GN spends on medical and lodging patients per year?

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