N.W.T. health official says territory already in pandemic planning mode for COVID-19

The N.W.T.'s chief public health officer held a press conference Wednesday to update people about the novel coronavirus, speaking as the disease was upgraded to a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Dr. Kami Kandola took questions from reporters at a Wednesday press conference

N.W.T.'s top doctor makes travel recommendations for residents

2 years ago
Duration 1:03
Dr. Kami Kandola issued several travel recommendations for residents of the territory at a press conference Wednesday morning.

The N.W.T.'s chief public health officer updated the public and media on the territory's response to the novel coronavirus Wednesday morning, speaking as reports broke about the World Health Organization declaring the disease a global pandemic.

During the press conference, Dr. Kami Kandola laid out many of the same precautions released Tuesday for N.W.T. residents and visitors, including recommendations for anyone travelling outside the territory to monitor themselves for flu-like symptoms for 14 days, and to self-isolate if they have visited Iran, Italy, or China's Hubei province.

To date, nobody in the territory has tested positive for COVID-19. Kandola said that 34 people have been tested as of Wednesday morning, with all tests coming back negative.

As Kandola spoke, news broke that the World Health Organization had upgraded the COVID-19 outbreak to a global pandemic.

We have already, weeks ago, started working as if WHO declared a pandemic.- Dr. Kami Kandola, N.W.T. chief public health officer

She said that designation doesn't change the territory's response, saying the N.W.T. Health Department had already created a pandemic planning guide for COVID-19 and distributed it to communities across the territory, as well as a checklist to guide the review of local, regional, and territorial pandemic plans. 

"We have already, weeks ago, started working as if WHO declared a pandemic," Kandola said. "Even before WHO declared this a pandemic, we were in pandemic preparation mode."

WATCH: Dr. Kami Kandola talks about the territory's pandemic planning:

N.W.T. started preparing for pandemic 'weeks ago,' says Chief Public Health Officer

2 years ago
Duration 1:08
Dr. Kami Kandola responds to the WHO's designation of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, saying that the territory had been operating under that assumption for weeks.

Risk assessments underway for PDAC participants

Kandola was asked about the delegation that recently returned from the Prospectors, Developers Association of Canada  (PDAC) conference, held March 2 and 3 in Toronto. Wednesday morning, health officials in Sudbury, Ont., confirmed that a man tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the conference.

Dozens of delegates attended from the territory, representing private industry and different levels of government.

Kandola said that at this point, she recommending delegates monitor themselves for 14 days to see if they develop flu-like symptoms and report themselves to a health official if they notice them.

In the meantime, the government is reaching out to individuals in order to determine their risk factors, she said. 

Later on Wednesday, a territorial government spokesperson clarified that an email had been sent to GNWT staff who attended PDAC, recommending that they go home for the day and allow time for a proper risk assessment.

WATCH: Dr. Kami Kandola on N.W.T.'s PDAC attendees:

PDAC attendees should self-monitor, says Dr. Kami Kandola

2 years ago
Duration 1:30
The N.W.T.'s Chief Public Health Officer says that risk assessments are underway for the territory's delegates at the recent PDAC conference in Toronto, where an attendee recently rested positive for COVID-19.

"We'll be working on doing a quick history, seeing if they have symptoms, and providing information, but if we start testing everyone without symptoms ... it can overwhelm the system," she said.

"This is an ongoing assessment. It happened this morning. So I can't really comment further, because we still are talking to these individuals and trying to figure out what their individual risk is."

Long John Jamboree to go ahead, other events in question

Asked about large-scale gatherings in the territory, such as handgames tournaments and winter festivals, Kandola asked organizers to contact her and go through a risk assessment before determining if they should proceed.

Kandola ran through a number of factors that could determine whether an event goes forward or not — including the ability to isolate people with flu-like symptoms, if needed.

Are elders going to be exposed? How crowded is that gathering?- Dr. Kami Kandola, N.W.T. chief public health officer

"If people are planning a gathering that is outdoors, the risk is a lot lower," she said. "If people are ... not coming from affected areas, that decreases the risk. Are elders going to be exposed? How crowded is that gathering?

"When you look at all these factors, these are things that are going through my mind."

Kandola noted that she recommended the cancellation or postponement of a recent school trip to Europe, as well as some unnamed annual meetings in April and May, "where people from communities are coming and it's going to involve elders."

The upcoming Long John Jamboree, scheduled for late March in Yellowknife, is set to go ahead, with recommendations made to the organizers, Kandola said.

However, she noted that things could change very quickly, and that organizers should develop plans for COVID-19.

"I might direct actions to protect the health and safety of our residents — that could include the cancellation, or modification, of events and gatherings."

Watch Dr. Kami Kandola's full press conference:


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