4 new cases of COVID-19 identified in Arviat, increasing territory's active cases to 8

A release from health officials sent Saturday announced they had found a further four cases of COVID-19 in Arviat, bringing the community’s total count to five active cases.

Release from health officials say contact tracing continues in Kivalliq region

A file photo of Arviat in April. The community reported four new cases of COVID-19 Saturday, after identifying their first case on Friday. (Submitted by Dylan Clark)

Health officials have identified four new cases of COVID-19 in Arviat, according to a release sent Saturday afternoon.

The cases add to one identified yesterday in Arviat, a fly-in community of nearly 3,000 on the shores of Hudson Bay. It's not immediately clear whether the cases are connected or among members of the same household.

"As of 8 a.m. today, Nunavut has a total of eight positive cases of COVID-19," the release begins. "All individuals are in isolation and doing well."

Nunavut requires all inbound travellers from outside the territory to isolate for two weeks at dedicated centres in major southern cities. For months, the territory saw no confirmed positive cases outside mine sites.

But since Nov. 7, cases have been reported in Rankin Inlet, Sanikiluaq and, now, Arviat. Both Rankin Inlet and Arviat have regular connections to southern cities.

Cases in both Arviat and Rankin Inlet involved people who had completed two weeks of isolation but developed symptoms after returning home. Health officials have not yet said how they believe they contracted the disease.

In a press conference Friday, Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory's chief public health officer, recommended anyone who has gone through any of the southern isolation hubs should be self-monitoring for 14 days after their return to the territory.

Self-monitoring means observing for symptoms, maintaining physical distance at all times, and wearing a mask when distancing isn't possible.

"It is important for Nunavummiut to be strict with the recommended public health measures — limit your contacts, wash your hands, keep physical distance whenever possible, do not shake hands, and stay home if you feel sick," reads Saturday's release. "Individual actions can impact everyone's health."

Arviat's health centre, normally staffed by six or seven community health nurses, cannot admit people for care, but can stabilize them for travel to southern hospitals.

Starting Sunday, travel is being restricted between Kivalliq communities, which includes Arviat, to help prevent further spread.

Only emergency and cargo flights will be permitted, and hunters are asked not to travel to neighbouring communities.

Anyone who has a critical need to travel out of the Kivalliq after Sunday will need to contact the office of the chief public health officer for permission via email:

Kivalliq schools have been closed to in-person instruction since the cases were first announced.

Meanwhile, contact tracing is ongoing, the release says. Health officials have already carried out 63 additional tests in Sanikiluaq and 22 additional tests in Rankin Inlet, which "have all yielded negative results."

Contact tracing is also underway in Arviat, but the release did not specify if any tests have been performed.

The premier and chief public health officer are next scheduled to speak to media Monday at 11 a.m.

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