Some Nunavut hamlets producing own COVID-19 counts amid testing backlogs

Cambridge Bay’s mayor’s numbers include presumptive cases, while GN only reports confirmed infections

The Hamlet of Cambridge Bay has been adding together confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 to give the community a fuller picture of the outbreak. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By Mélanie Ritchot

While the Government of Nunavut’s COVID-19 case count no longer provides an accurate picture of its spread in the territory, some municipal leaders are taking reporting numbers into their own hands.

Cambridge Bay’s mayor, Angulalik Pedersen, announced Facebook there were 36 active cases in the community as of Wednesday afternoon.

The GN’s official count of confirmed cases for the community was at 10 on Thursday, but that number only counts cases confirmed by PCR test.

The hamlet’s higher count includes confirmed cases, presumptive cases and symptomatic individuals living with someone confirmed to have the virus, Pedersen said on the official Municipality of Cambridge Bay Facebook page.

“Don’t let the decline in cases from yesterday trick you into thinking that we are winning this battle against COVID-19, we still need to stop visiting one another,” Pedersen’s Facebook post reads.

Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, has cautioned against interpreting the Health Department’s official case numbers, because tests are being rationed in the territory and there are backlogs in publishing information about recoveries.

He addressed community-level case reporting during Thursdays COVID-19 news conference, saying some health officials have been sharing more data with local leaders.

Patterson said he calls community mayors himself when there is a first case of COVID-19 in their community, or a first case after a time without cases. He added some local health centres are communicating directly with mayors to give them results of rapid tests.

“In the absence of other ways to give people a clear reliable picture of what the numbers were and what’s going on, it seemed appropriate at the local level to have those conversations with the mayors,” he said.

Complicating things further, there are people in communities with no confirmed cases of COVID-19 who are in isolation, because they were exposed to the disease, said Patterson, and others are being diagnosed based solely on symptoms.

He added that anybody, whether diagnosed by PCR test or symptoms alone, will be informed of their diagnosis and told how long they need to isolate for.

Patterson said the Health Department will be able to publish more accurate case counts starting Monday, as public-health officials work to clear reporting backlogs. He added he expects results from confirmatory, or PCR, tests and rapid tests done at health centres to start coming back within 24 hours, which will also help make the case count more consistent.

Total cases across the territory sat at 172 Thursday with 202 recoveries, Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok said at Thursday’s update.

Seven people remain in hospital with the disease.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed to eight in Baker Lake on Thursday, while Igloolik’s two confirmed cases appear to be resolved.

In Baker Lake, the hamlet addressed Facebook rumours of new cases in town in a social media post on Wednesday.

The post said public health officials hadn’t yet informed community leaders of new confirmed cases, but contact tracing appeared to have identified spread of the virus.

The next day, on Thursday, the additional seven cases showed up on the GNs official count.

“This is a serious matter and we appreciate the manner in which Baker Lake residents have managed themselves in keeping our community as safe as possible,” the message from the hamlet states. It encouraged residents to stay vigilant.


There were a total of 172 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut on Thursday. But, with testing being rationed, this isn’t a complete picture of the spread of the virus. (Graphic by Mélanie Ritchot)

The Government of Nunavut’s active case breakdown:

  • Arviat — 20
  • Cambridge Bay — 10
  • Chesterfield Inlet — 5
  • Iqaluit — 38
  • Kinngait — 17
  • Baker Lake — 8
  • Pangnirtung — 8
  • Pond Inlet — 1
  • Qikiqtarjuaq — 4
  • Rankin Inlet — 38
  • Sanirajak — 6
  • Sanikiluaq — 1
  • Whale Cove — 7
  • Coral Harbour — 9
  • Taloyoak — 0 (1 presumptive case)

Danarae Sommerville, a spokesperson for the Health Department, said infections have been confirmed in Nunavummiut ranging from one to over 75 years old, as of Tuesday.

She also confirmed the department doesn’t have statistics on vaccination status of those who test positive for the virus, since patients aren’t asked to disclose that information.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Iqaluit guy on

    Every community in Nunavut should be following Cambridge Bay’s example. If the Department of Health is no longer able to give an accurate picture, then I welcome others to take up this challenge. Thank you, Cambridge Bay, for this great initiative and showing us how things really are.

  2. Posted by Data on

    It is unfortunate that the vaccination status of people who are confirmed to have covid in the current outbreak, or at least hospitalized individuals (as this is what the vaccine protects us from, i.e. severe illness) isn’t recorded.

  3. Posted by Concerned on

    The numbers being used to make the decision to open are skewed/false. Sanikiluaq has many confirmed cases but the number is not being shared or reported. The virus is still spreading and we are in worse shape than when we locked down. This is irresponsible.

  4. Posted by Name withheld on

    Health officials and the GN Ministers have to be held accountable for this misinformation and the decision to stop testing everyone.

    Now people will see it as a regular flu that does not do any damage to one’s health and go abouts going out to visit etc.

    They mention the Elders home but they forget that rest of Nunavut residence have elders who live in their own unit/ lease unit.

    We have some elders that do tend to be abused by their grown adults or others in providing money or food . So please tell me what will these officials do if such elder in this circumstances end up with Covid ? And most likely have an underlying condition gets medivac or die?

    As most news states that Omicron might look or feel like a regular flu. But GN fail to mentioned that it’s only if you are a healthy adult with no underlying health conditions.

    Nunatsiaq news does alot better in Reporting up to date news. Maybe the Government of Nunavut can learn a thing or two.

    GN you are a paid public servant to the public therefore the public deserves the opportunity to be given the accurate information. “Especially when it comes to health “

  5. Posted by in the wings on

    Well done Angut. Good to see you as Mayor and moving through the adversity to lead the community. Real leaders step up , and that’s what this is.

    if only you’d had the rank to stand next to Raillard and Scott, just imagine where polar would be at now ? (Jokes or loud laughs aside … just imagine)

    – former polar colleague (snow patrol duties)

  6. Posted by Wonder why on

    Kind of makes you wonder if Dr Patterson and the GN would have acknowledged that there was an inaccurate case count and put more effort into the actual case count if Angulalik hadn’t taken this initiative in the first place. Truth and seriousness with public disclosure is very important people , remember to hold your representative responsible to their duty’s.

  7. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    This is the proper easy to give the public an idea of how many cases we have in town.

    When there was word of one recovery and GN reporting one case you would hear People “ah we only have one case the other already recovered, chill out”.

    Which was not true, Health Centre was reporting 19 active cases. Please do not let your guard down yet

  8. Posted by Hai? on

    How can an airline require vaccination status to board a plane but the hospital can’t ask this of a Covid+ person? In a pandemic situation, wouldn’t you want to collect this information? That is science! To keep learning as we go! Any local decisions need to consider our local realities. In other areas, there are many vaccinated people being hospitalized and there is preliminary evidence that the effectiveness of boosters wanes to 35% after 10 weeks. Of course, this could look different in Canada and it could look different among Inuit but who knows because they’re not collecting that information. What a missed opportunity! Call me crazy but maybe “rolling up our sleeves” again and again (and again) is no longer the way out of this pandemic. Or maybe this is still a pandemic of the unvaccinated as they say or maybe it is still a pandemic of everybody and we should focus more on protecting our vulnerable populations (elders, smokers, overweight, underlying conditions, etc.) instead of those who are healthy and are a low risk of complications. If only we had good local data to make such decisions that we know will better reflect Nunavummiut.

  9. Posted by In Rankin on

    Way to go CamBay! The other communities need to step up as well in providing the right numbers to the public periodically. In Rankin, we have anti-vaccers and conspiracy theorists that are having field day with proving the lack of consistency the GN is providing. We still have people visiting and working possibly when sick. Our local government need to play a roll (like CamBay) and help with these numbers for a more accurate assessment to help fight and limit the spread.
    To have good local followers, we must have good local leaders!
    Keep well and stay safe my nunaqatiks.

  10. Posted by George on

    “She also confirmed the department doesn’t have statistics on vaccination status of those who test positive for the virus, since patients aren’t asked to disclose that information.”

    Why not? Restaurants and airlines do it. CBSA does it. Why not the GN. Wouldn’t that be useful data? Or maybe it’s a case of “The truth! You can’t handle the truth!”

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