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Presumptive COVID-19 case at Nunavut's Mary River Mine tests negative

Nunavut's chief public health officer confirmed on Friday morning the presumptive test has come back negative from a lab in Ontario.

Case reported on July 2; will remain 'presumptive positive,' says top doctor

The presumptive COVID-19 case at Mary River Mine has come back negative. (Baffinland)

The presumptive case of COVID-19 at Nunavut's Mary River Mine has come back negative after being tested in a lab in Ontario, says the territory's chief public health officer. 

The case was reported on July 2. After initial testing at the mine — located about 176 kilometres southwest of Pond Inlet — the territory sent the test to its accredited lab in Ontario to confirm the presumptive case.

The mine worker had tested positive twice on back-to-back days, but had not been showing symptoms; they were among several workers self-isolating since the case was first detected, the mine's safety director said at the time.

Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said that while the individual's test came back negative, it will remain a presumptive positive.

"We may never know for sure whether the individual had a barely detectable case of COVID-19," said Patterson, in a news release sent Friday.

The individual, and all their other contacts at the mine, were taken off self-isolation, according to the release. None of the other workers developed COVID-19 symptoms, Patterson added.

Earlier in July, Patterson reassured Nunavummiut that the case was "contained," and the individual was from outside the territory and had come recently to work. He said Mary River Mine's workers did not have any contact with any of the surrounding communities.

"I continue to ask Nunavummiut to remain vigilant and follow our public health advice," he said Friday.

In a news release Friday, Baffinland Iron Mines — which runs Mary River — said it was pleased with the negative test result. The company said its "robust pandemic response plan" was successful in detecting the presumptive case.

It said its GuardRX mobile testing process at the site helped keep its site "COVID-19 free." 

"Baffinland will continue to adjust their risk management approach to benefit the health and well-being of our workforce," the company said in a news release.

Nunavut still last jurisdiction with no cases in Canada

Nunavut is the only jurisdiction in Canada without a confirmed case of COVID-19 so far.

This is not the first time a presumed case of COVID-19 came back negative. Earlier in April, Nunavut's top doctor announced its first case of COVID-19 in Pond Inlet, which was later determined to have been a false positive.

On Thursday, the territorial government extended its public health emergency until July 23. The government said all existing measures under the public health emergency order remain in effect.

As of July 3 when the government's COVID-19 numbers were last updated, there were 157 people in the territory being investigated by public health for COVID-19. In total, 1,467 have been investigated.

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