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Presumptive positive case of COVID-19 at N.W.T. mine was false alarm, officials say

A presumptive case of COVID-19 at the Gahcho Kué Diamond Mine in the N.W.T. was a false alarm, the territorial government announced on Wednesday.

2 other presumptive cases in Yellowknife, announced last week, confirmed on Wednesday

N.W.T. health officials said Wednesday that a presumptive positive case of COVID-19 at the Gahcho Kue diamond mine, announced earlier, was in fact a false positive. A second test on the individual came back negative. (Submitted by De Beers Group)

A presumptive case of COVID-19 at the Gahcho Kué Diamond Mine in the N.W.T. was a false alarm, the territorial government announced on Wednesday evening.

Earlier on Wednesday, health officials announced the new presumptive positive case at the mine. They later said that a second test on the person had come back negative.

An investigation of the case was begun Wednesday morning, and all possible contacts were tested and results were negative, the government said. 

During a press briefing Wednesday evening, the territory's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola clarified a letter shared on Facebook that appeared to be on letterhead from École St. Joseph School in Yellowknife. The letter said two after hour school program workers had been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Kandola said the alleged case was linked to a contact of the case at the mine.

"There is no exposure risk at St. Joe's," she said.

"Any organization, any institution, any business that have concerns when they hear that someone's a contact of a possible case, before they issue advice please contact our office directly and we can help you, we can help you do a risk assessment. But please don't go ahead and issue advice," she added.

Meanwhile, two other presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Yellowknife announced last week were confirmed on Wednesday. 

The individuals with confirmed cases in Yellowknife are still isolating at home, a Wednesday news release from the government says.

Public health isolated one identified contact.

It says it also followed up on more than 50 potential contacts from a gym, Anytime Fitness, where the infected person was believed to have been. Many of the individuals on the list were not at the gym at the date and time identified in the exposure notification. More than 20 people were given isolation advice so far, the release says.

The territory says the "chances are very high that we would have had patients presenting with symptoms already" which is a "promising sign."

But to be safe, it says it's requesting all contacts to be tested on Thursday "for added assurance" and said these tests will be "completed on short-order."

There is no indication of further transmission, the territory says.

However, the release says the territory will continue to monitor the situation and that the exposure notification associated with these positive cases will remain active until at least 14 days after the dates and times listed for each place.

The territory says this is because it can't guarantee whether it has reached all possible contacts.

"An aggressive contact investigation has been initiated and every possible step is being taken to minimize risk to our communities," the release says.

People at gym or police station should isolate

The territory added that there may be "outstanding potential contact" from the Yellowknife RCMP public waiting area.

Last week, health officials advised that anyone who was in the RCMP Yellowknife Detachment public waiting area on Oct. 13 between 11 and 11:30 a.m. must self-isolate at home for 14 days, and monitor for symptoms closely.

"We urge anyone who was in this location at the identified date and time to contact Yellowknife Public Health at 867-767-9120 and isolate immediately," the Wednesday release says.

Anyone who may have been at either of the potential exposure locations are also asked to isolate immediately at home and contact the Yellowknife Public Health unit.

N.W.T. case counts jumps by 3

The new confirmed cases on Wednesday, along with a confirmed case in Inuvik on Tuesday brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in the N.W.T. to eight. 

The territory warns that even though the cases and contacts are being monitored, residents should be vigilant and must take steps to prevent the spread of the virus including keeping physical distance from others, wearing non-medical face masks when distance is not possible, and frequent hand-washing.

"Despite [the case at the mine] being a false positive, I want to emphasize we need everyone to do their part to limit community spread," said Premier Caroline Cochrane on Wednesday.

Territory has 2 certified COVID-19 testing machines

Kandola said the territory now has two machines at Stanton Territorial Hospital that are now fully accredited as of Tuesday.

That means the machines are able to confirm whether a case is positive or negative without having to send it down to Alberta for clarification.

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