Nunavut’s presumptive COVID-19 cases linked to a gathering in the south

Chief public health officer says he’s confident COVID-19 isn’t spreading at Baffinland’s Mary River mine

Baffinland’s Mary River mine site, on Milne Inlet. (File photo)

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says that he expects all three of the Baffinland employees who work at Mary River mine who have tested positive for COVID-19 likely spread it to each other at a social event before arriving in the territory.

“That’s the most likely explanation,” said Dr. Michael Patterson at a news conference this afternoon.

The first person who tested positive on the mine’s testing devices arrived in the territory on June 23. The worker initially tested negative upon arrival, but a second test came back positive on July 2.

That worker did not have any contact at the mine site with the two who are now presumed to have COVID-19 after testing positive on both the mine’s testing machines and Iqaluit’s GeneXpert machine.

But further questioning by the mine’s health staff revealed “a link from a few weeks before that positive test came back,” Patterson said.

“They found they had spent time in a social setting, as all of us do, outside of work … before their trips to the mine,” Patterson said.

If the social gathering wasn’t where the transmission occurred, Patterson said the disease likely would have been spread at another site outside of the mine.

There’s no evidence that transmission of COVID-19 is occurring at the mine site, he said.

The first person to test positive at the mine two weeks ago later tested negative on accredited machines in labs in southern Canada. Patterson has said it remains unclear whether that case was a false positive or a very mild case of COVID-19.

Staff at the mine and Nunavut’s Department of Health are doing “what’s needed to ensure there’s no further transmission from these individuals,” Patterson said.

That means they’re operating under the assumption that the presumptive cases could still transmit COVID-19 to other people, and so they’re isolated at the mine site, along with people who are known to have been in contact with them at the site.

The number of people who have been in contact with the two workers presumed to have COVID-19 is under five.

Samples from all of them were sent to a lab in Hamilton, Ontario, either “yesterday or today,” said Patterson.

Their results are expected to be known early next week.

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by B Aglukark on

    [revised] Most people are comfortable with the current systems in place allowing miners to enter the territory then directly to a mine site without a quarantine period. It seems to be working, of course with the CMO’s approval it’s proof that Nunavunmiut are risk free.
    But, if a presumptive case at one of these mine sites was confirmed to be a c-19 virus were the CMO’s office forces parts of Nunavut or all of Nunavut to take stronger precautions,or slow down the process of fully opening up their local business’ or minimize the ability to meet in larger groups. More or less going backwards.
    Why would the residents have to be penalized by a system that is deemed safe?
    If having Nunavunmiut move backwards because of a positive test of the c-19 virus is part of the CMO’s plan, then the miners must be forced to go through a quarantine period like everyone else.
    Otherwise, we should not be concerned about the pop-ups at these mine sites.

  2. Posted by Concerned One on

    This is concerning. How is a mine essential? If the mine shuts down for a week, the only thing it does is affect profit. If they feel it is that important to operate, test or isolate before coming. What is the cost of of testing compared to all the money they make? If one person becomes critically ill, would they not need the nearest medical facility? This would put Nunavummiut at risk. A mine is not essential.

    • Posted by Observer on

      You can’t just shut down a mine for a week. Shuytting down a mine is a very long process, as is starting it up again.

    • Posted by Disgruntled on

      Apparently you are unaware of the incredible importance of mining to Nunavut’s economy. Our population is more reliant on government programs than any other province or territory in Canada. While we are mostly funded by the Government of Canada, the mines are incredibly important to keep our programs funded and afloat. We can’t afford to shut down the mines because we can’t afford to lose mines as a revenue source.

  3. Posted by Not Safe on

    I feel that EVERYONE , including Doctors, Nurses, Mine Workers, essential staff, critical staff, should have to isolate ( either in a hub or in their own home) before entering Nunavut.
    This is the only way that we can be assured the virus will not be brought into Nunavut.

  4. Posted by Consistency on

    Am i mistaken but i thought the presumptive case from earlier this month/last month was found to not be COVID-19? I know they tested positive by the mine but when the sample was sent to a better lab it tested negative. but this article make it sound like there was COVID at the mine… what am i missing here?

  5. Posted by Congrats on

    Congrats to the 3 workers who were too insecure to not go to parties during the pandemic. You brought COVID to the only jurisdiction in Canada that didn’t have it. You truly are heroes. Hope you feel good about yourselves.

    • Posted by a flying squirrel on

      Congrats, you think they give a flying squirrel? They are here for money. Through and through. They won’t care that they’ve made the only jurisdiction in Canada without covid an addition to the stats.

      I am wondering why the need for a press conference if, in fact, as they say it doesn’t, affect Nunavut. Scratching my head on this one

      Sooner or later it is going to make it’s way here, I think it’s only a matter of time, 5 months covid free? That’s near impossible, the probabilities are too high with the essential workers not having to quarantine.

      Why can’t they hire essential workers willing to do a 6 month or longer stint up here rather than a few weeks here and there? Travel is covered, as well as apartments

    • Posted by Meeya on

      It doesn’t say “party”. It says social gathering. Things are opening up in the south just like here in Nunavut. Restaurants are open, movie theatres are open, people are allowed to gather in larger groups….so they could have been anywhere together

    • Posted by Good Job on

      Good job with a comment that spreads misinformation and half-truths, as if Nunavut doesn’t have enough of that via Facebook.

      A ‘social gathering’ could be anything from a cup of coffee with co-workers to a christening. The only way you can blame these workers for anything is if you knew what sort of ‘social gathering’ it was, and whether the rules in their jurisdiction were followed.

      If they were compliant with bubble and gathering size rules where they were, then they are blameless.

  6. Posted by Testing variables on

    Given the variables of the testing kits and inconsistencies between unofficial screening tests and official screening tests, I am curious whether it could be a different coronavirus strain or flu?

    Does anyone know if the official screening kits also detect other similar strains? The current results of positives than negatives then positives again seem a bit iffy

  7. Posted by FunGuy on

    they should mention in the article that the only places the workers get off in nunavut is the mary river aerodrome they go right from edmonton or Montreal to site and stay on the plane to refuel

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