One month in, Iqaluit’s COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow

‘We have a very short summer and it seems that it’s getting shorter by the day,’ says Nunavut’s health minister

Health Minister Lorne Kusugak urged Iqaluit residents on Friday to follow public health orders and avoid unsafe gatherings. “If we want to enjoy the short summer that we are about to have, it’s up to all of us to do our part,” he said. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By Dustin Patar

Iqaluit’s outbreak of COVID-19 continued to spread on Friday, exactly one month after the virus was detected in the Nunavut capital.

For the second day in a row, the Government of Nunavut reported 12 new cases in Iqaluit, bringing the seven-day average to an all-time high of 9.2 cases per day.

There were 78 active cases in Iqaluit, the only community in territory with confirmed cases of the disease, as of Friday.

Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, says the majority of the spread continues to be from unsafe gatherings.

“Any kind of mixing between households indoors carries some risk of spreading COVID-19,” Patterson said during a news conference on Friday morning at the legislative assembly, adding that contact tracing teams have even seen spread at gatherings such as Mother’s Day celebrations.

“We’ve also seen unsafe gatherings outdoors where people are in close proximity and not wearing masks.”

As a result, case counts have gone up, as have the number of people in isolation.

There are 264 people in Iqaluit currently isolating. As that number grows, so does the risk that essential services, such as grocery stores, gas stations and other businesses that have remained open, will be impacted, Patterson said. Health staff are already being stretched by the demands of contact tracing, maintaining notifications and supporting people in isolation, he said.

Another challenge, Patterson said, is that many people in Iqaluit have refused surveillance testing because they feel it’s unnecessary or out of fear of being isolated.

“Isolation will only be necessary if you test positive for the virus,” he said.

Surveillance testing is also a way for health teams to detect people who may have the virus but aren’t showing symptoms, who may potentially be putting others at risk.

“This will not be successful without everyone’s cooperation,” Patterson said.

Health Minister Lorne Kusugak also reminded Iqaluit residents what was at stake.

“We have a very short summer and it seems that it’s getting shorter by the day,” he said.

“Please don’t take chances and think about all the others that are listening to these rules in hopes that they could have a very good summer, it’s still not too late.”

If new cases stopped appearing tomorrow it would still be 28 days until the outbreak could be declared over, Patterson said, though he also said there are ways to ease measures before then.

Given Iqaluit’s current vaccination rates and the prospect of soon vaccinating teenagers, Patterson said that their approach to easing measures may vary from what was done in the past, though he didn’t elaborate.

As of now, there are no plans to ease those measures, including creating bubbles for single people. In part, this is due to the frequency at which new households are becoming infected, Patterson said.

“The hesitation is because of the mixed message that it puts out when we ease measures in any way,” he said.

Any resident of Nunavut who thinks they may have been exposed to COVID-19, or Iqaluit residents who have attended a party in the last three weeks, are asked to call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. eastern time.

Individuals unable to contact the hotline can go to the cadet hall between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekday afternoons to be tested.

For updated information and resources on COVID-19, visit the Government of Nunavut’s website.

The government’s next COVID-19 updates will be held next Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m. eastern time.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Larry on

    Can we please close down the B&W store at lease for a month to get a handle on this variant Covid?
    Have a plan in place for the alcoholics and treat their withdrawals, maybe this way it would help to limit the parties and groups drinking together outside.
    Something has to be done here, the way it’s going we will be stuck like this for months and months.
    We didn’t have a B&W store just a couple years ago and the alcoholics managed ok and there was fewer public drunkenness compared to today.
    In a matter of a couple years it just seems like it’s spiralling out of control and it is getting worse.
    If the GN will not close the B&W store at least cut down the amount of alcohol that can be purchased per day, it’s ridiculously high the amount one person can buy per day, so unhealthy.

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    • Posted by GNer on

      It won’t happen, GN generates too much revenue from the B&W store and on top of that the functioning alcoholics will not allow it to close or add more limitations.
      Stuck between a rock and a hard place, more enforcement of the rules would help. Everyone do your part and call the authorities when you see people partying.

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    • Posted by We Deiiver on

      It’s timefor the B&W to go to a Delivery Only model.
      .
      That way the alcoholics get their medicine and Iqaluit gets a step closer to being rid of COVID-19.

  2. Posted by Stop the Hubs on

    We have done enough. We did our part. We’re double vaccinated. In the states they don’t even need a mask and are free to travel due to low possibility of transmission. Stop punishing those who did their part and let us isolate at home. It is wrong to continue this on so many levels. If people don’t want to vaccinate then stop punishing me for their sins. Make them isolate in hubs. Stop their travel. But stop painting us all with the same brush.

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    • Posted by Yes please on

      Yes! Enough with the hubs. The virus is here anyway.

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    • Posted by planning ahead on

      Some of us have already booked their tickets to come back at the end of summer and be at work on time the next day. We booked this date based on co-ordinating with the hub. If that all changes, will we be allowed to rebook for 2 weeks earlier at no cost? The finance minister said yesterday that the hub contract is good until the end of June.

  3. Posted by Bachus on

    We are only as safe as the weakest link.
    Don’t be a weak link.

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  4. Posted by Northener on

    The alcohalics survived before there was a beer store which was not that long ago so why they can’t survive without one now is just b.s.

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