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
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.