Contact tracing links Kinngait COVID-19 cases to Iqaluit outbreak

Public health has been able to link the two positive COVID-19 cases in Kinngait to the outbreak in Iqaluit, after more contact tracing. 

Nunavut has 33 active cases of COVID-19, 2 in Kinngait and 31 in Iqaluit

Two cases of COVID-19 were reported in Kinngait on Monday night. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

Public health has been able to link the two positive COVID-19 cases in Kinngait to the outbreak in Iqaluit, after more contact tracing. 

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson confirmed the link to Iqaluit in a news conference Tuesday afternoon. 

The two cases of the virus were reported Monday night — at which point there was no obvious connection. 

The two individuals left Iqaluit before the first case in the capital was diagnosed, but have now been connected to a family member in Iqaluit with the virus. Patterson says public health hasn't figured out yet if both people caught the virus in Iqaluit or if one of them caught it and passed it onto the other. 

They were not found through contact tracing. Instead they went to the health centre in Kinngait, saying they'd been in Iqaluit — at least one of the two had symptoms before they were tested. 

There have been seven contacts identified in Kinngait. There is no testing machine in Kinngait, so swabs will be sent to Iqaluit or Rankin Inlet for testing. 

Kinngait has entered lockdown as a result, indoor gatherings are limited to a household or up to five people in cases of emergency. Outdoor gatherings are capped at five people. 

All schools and non-essential businesses have closed. Travel in and out of the community, including by land, requires permission from the office of the chief public health officer. 

As of Monday, 366 adults in Kinngait have received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine and 267 have received two doses. Vaccines are available in the community for those who still wish to get vaccinated. 

Missed the news conference? Watch it here: 

Qikiqtaaluk restrictions tighten

Iqaluit also confirmed three new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing the capital's total case count to 31 and Nunavut's total to 33. 

Restrictions have also tightened across the Qikiqtaaluk. Outside of Iqaluit and Kinngait, communities may have indoor gatherings of a household plus five people. 

Patterson recommends in these communities, if people choose to gather they bubble with one other household. Indoor gatherings outside the household are limited to 25 people or 50 per cent of the building's capacity, whatever is less. Outdoor gatherings are also restricted to 25 people. 

Schools will enter stage three, which means all grades will only attend school part time on staggered schedules. All group activities will be cancelled. 

In Rankin Inlet, restrictions for gathering will stay the same, however masks are now mandatory. 

Nunavut's premier Joe Savikataaq gives an update at a government news conference on COVID-19. (Jackie McKay/CBC News)

Public health can adequately respond to one more community with COVID-19, after that Patterson predicts that resources would be stretched. 

A rapid response team has not been sent to Kinngait yet, because Patterson says there was already an extra public health nurse in Kinngait, another nurse was set to leave, but will extend their stay in the community. 

Premier Joe Savikataaq said the government has had requests to close airports in some communities as a reaction to the rising case numbers. 

The government will not be closing airports as there are several essential services that run through the airports and closing them would do more harm than good, Savikataaq said.  However, he highly discouraged non-essential travel. 

Savikataaq asked communities, if they are capable, to put on extra shifts for water delivery to allow people to wash their hands more often. 

The way hamlet compensation works, the more water is delivered, the more the hamlet gets paid, so Savikataaq says the hamlets should be financially able to offer more deliveries. 

Some cases of COVID-19 caught in Iqaluit bar

Patterson says to expect to see more cases in Iqaluit as public health has now confirmed that some patrons of the Storehouse Bar and Grill caught COVID-19 from their visit. 

"The reason for greater concern for transmission in Iqaluit ... the number of contacts is continuing to increase. We know there's a number of people who've contracted COVID-19 in at least one of the bars in town, so there may be other people as well," Patterson said. 

Public health has not yet discovered how COVID-19 entered Iqaluit. Patterson says determining the source is important, so the government can plan to prevent future outbreaks.