There was one confirmed case and 15 probable cases Monday in Fort Good Hope, a community of about 600 people. Colville Lake, home to about 150 people, has had two confirmed cases. Another probable case was that of Deline, on the shore of Great Bear Lake. The communities are all located in the Sahtu region, in the northwest of the territory.
There were also four probable infections further south in Yellowknife.
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The 23 cases are “related to travel or residence” in Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake, said Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer.
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She said a hand-playing event that took place Aug. 5-9 in Fort Good Hope is considered a “super-broadcast event” that contributed to the cases.
Health Minister Julie Green said that although the territory has faced epidemics in the past, the NWT is now at “a critical juncture.”
“This is quickly becoming a multi-community event and will likely put enormous strain on our health system resources,” Green said. “It’s a serious situation. “
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Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake are subject to a 10-day lockdown with specific rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents.
Unvaccinated people who were in either community on or after August 5 must self-isolate for 10 days and take a COVID-19 test. People who have been vaccinated should watch for symptoms.
Kandola said there is a “high risk of a regional epidemic” linked to culture and travel in the region. “Right now, we are in test and containment mode to stem the transmission. “
Rapid response teams are on the ground and all residents of affected communities are encouraged to follow public health orders.
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“Because of the close ties, we consider everyone in Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake 1/8 as 3/8 to be exposed to COVID-19,” Kandola said.
While everyone at risk is at risk of developing COVID-19, unvaccinated people face a much higher risk, she added. She urged those who have not been immunized to get immunized immediately.
The cases are the first in the territory since an outbreak at a school in Yellowknife in June.