Nunavut reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, Nov. 25. (File photo)

More COVID-19 cases “inevitable” in the next couple of days, Patterson says

Nunavut reports four new cases Monday; active case total stands at 132

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nunavut has four new COVID-19 cases, bringing the territory’s active cases to 132, the Government of Nunavut announced Monday.

Three new cases were reported in Rankin Inlet, bringing its caseload to 18. One new case is being reported in Whale Cove, making that community’s total 16.

No new infections were reported today in Arviat, but at 98, it remains the community with the most cases.

Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, attributed that to bad luck at a news conference Monday morning.

“I’m not trying to be flippant in that comment,” he said.

Most people who have COVID-19 don’t spread it, Patterson said, but every once and a while some people trigger these “so-called super spreader events, that’s maybe one in five people with the infection.”

Research is underway to try and understand why some people spread it more than others, Patterson said. But he did say there are some things they know, like in Arviat overcrowded housing is contributing to the spread.

Overcrowded housing has led to some “complicated decisions” in that community, where some people in a household test positive and some test negative, but nobody is removed from the house, Patterson said

That’s because test results may come back after exposure has occurred, or there isn’t anywhere to move the people who tested negative. Or, it may be risky to move the people who tested negative because they may be infected from exposure at that point, “and in moving to other housing, we may actually just be transferring infections from one house to another and re-exposing another pool of people,” Patterson said.

Restrictions in place in the four infected communities mean that people should ask others to drop off groceries for them outside, or have the store deliver them. But the delivery option isn’t possible unless people have a credit card, and it may be hard to find people who want to delivery groceries to those in isolation.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said at Monday’s news conference that the Government of Nunavut is working to get food to everyone who needs it.

For example, the GN is working with the Hamlet of Arviat to deliver food packages. And Agnico Eagle Mines donated money to the Hamlet of Rankin Inlet to help purchase a grocery package for every household in that community, and firefighters are helping to deliver these packages.

Savikataaq also said the Family Services department is working to get income support evaluations done over the phone to make sure no one goes hungry.

Health Minister Lorne Kusugak said that seeing Nunavut’s case number going up at the moment is, in fact, a good thing because it shows that contract tracers are finding the people who have been in contact with those who are now positive and those people are being identified and isolated.

The territory reported its first case on Nov. 6 in Sanikiluaq, but after that, the caseload grew quickly with cases confirmed in Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Whale Cove.

“It’s inevitable that we’ll see more positive results in the next couple of days,” Patterson said. It won’t be until the end of this week or early next week when cases numbers should start dropping as a result of the lockdown underway.

Arviat remains the only place where there are signs that community transmission is occurring, but at this point Patterson doesn’t know if COVID-19 is still spreading in the community or just among contacts.

It’s still unclear how COVID-19 got into Nunavut — “It’s probably a chain of events,” Patterson said.

He said it’s not clear whether COVID-19 got into Nunavut because someone was breaking isolation rules at one of the southern hotels. But staffing has increased at some of the hotels in southern Canada used to isolate Nunavut residents awaiting return to the territory, Patterson said. He also said some policies for the isolation hubs have been tightened, but he didn’t provide details.

Nunavut is also working with Manitoba to review the policies around the hubs.

Nunavut is currently under a lockdown that took effect on Nov. 18 and is to remain in place until Dec. 2.

It’s reassuring that cases haven’t popped up in more communities, but it can take a while to appear if people without symptoms are infected. That’s why Nunavut’s conducting in a full lockdown for two weeks.

Across Canada, more than 330,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported since March when the pandemic began. More than 11,400 people have died.

“There’s been an awful lot of discussion” about vaccines in the past few days, with several pharmaceutical companies announcing promising test results for their COVID-19 vaccines.

Since Nunavut is isolated and vulnerable to the spread of infections, it’s “likely” that the territory will be a priority of the Canadian government for distribution, Patterson said.

In March, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. In Nunavut, Nunavik and across the country, public health officials have encouraged physical distancing, hand-washing and wearing masks in public places as measures people should take to prevent the spread of the disease.


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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Important to know on

    Have we crossed the threshold into what can be describes as ‘community transmission’ in Rankin Inlet, yet? As a resident I’d like to know.

    • Posted by Observer on

      Not yet. “Community transmission” just means they have no idea how the person who tests positive was infected; it isn’t directly related to the number of people infected. If someone went to a church service and infected 90 people and those people went home and infected 200 other people, it’s still not considered community transmission because you can trace the direct links to those people and, if you’re fast enough, get them into isolation and have the outbreak contained.
      If someone gets tested who didn’t have a connection that that church service and the people there so you have no idea how they were exposed, then you have community transmission because it means there’s might be another group of infectees out there you don’t know about.

  2. Posted by More Details On Testing & Isolating & Contact Tracing on

    Can our CPHO be more specific in regards to how they are reporting these results
    for example:
    Are these new cases coming from people whom have been told to isolate due to contact tracing and are waiting for their test results come back, and they have come back positive
    Are these results from people whom started to feel sick and have gone to the hospital to be tested, and have tested positive.
    Are these positive results, from the rapid test machine in Rankin, and are you still sending them to Winnipeg for confirmation, or secondary screening.
    Are there plans to test everybody in Arviat ??? or just the people linked to contact tracing.
    How many rapid test strips does our Nunavut Government currently have available in Nunavut for use in their rapid test machines

  3. Posted by Transparency on

    “It’s still unclear how COVID-19 got into Nunavut — “It’s probably a chain of events,” Patterson said.”
    The GN surely must how this unfolded with all the contact tracing it has been doing, and the apparent connections between these three communities and Winnipeg. Patterson even seems to have enough information to make opinions on probabilities.
    When will we know what failed at the isolation hubs? When will we know what the GN is doing to stop it from happening again, and particularly from happening in Baffin region? Why is the GN not providing more details on this, yet it is going to keep speculating about other things such as rising cases over the next few days? What ‘chain of events’ is he saying is probable?

    • Posted by Observer on

      The “chain of events” means there wasn’t simply one single failure one could point to, but a whole series of things, all of which had to go exactly the right way, for the transmission to happen.
      For instance, you could have had a situation where someone from Arviat went through the proper quarantine and at the airport went to use the bathroom right after another traveller, who was contagious but asymptomatic going somewhere else left it, but as he was putting on his mask leaving the bathroom he sneezed leaving a cloud of aerosol particles hanging in the air that the Arviat person walked through a few seconds later while removing their mask to go to the bathroom.
      So if the person had not sneezed, if both had not removed their masks at that critical moments, if the person from Arviat had walked in sooner or later, and so missed the aerosols before they got sucked into the ventilation or settled to the floor, if the flights had been slightly different, if one had used a different bathroom, if anything had been different, no transmission.
      Or it could have been an entirely different sequence of events. That’s what he meant, that it probably wasn’t one single act that introduced the virus.

  4. Posted by Mats Smallsacomber on

    It looks like Dr. Patterson’s plan to keep Covid-19 has been a failure. Unfortunately, there seems to be no Plan B.

    • Posted by Observer on

      So, please, share your deep insight. What should they be doing?
      It’s easy to complain and not have a solution.

  5. Posted by Not Nunavik on

    Its really unfortunate that the community spread occurred, unlike Nunavik which was able to contain every case that every occurred in northern Quebec. 11 Cases in Salluit? Community went into full lockdown. Not allowed being out on the street after 6PM, no exceptions.
    I pray for Kivallimiut that things get contained and that everyone recovers, but hopefully Dr. Patterson is looking at our Nunavik counterparts for future guidance.

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