Nunavut reports 10 new COVID-19 cases for Arviat, 4 recoveries

The Nunavut government reported 10 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. All the cases are in Arviat.

Health officials say cases are dropping, transmission is contained

Residents of Arviat, Nunavut, gave an appreciative send-off in January to a Vancouver doctor who stayed in the community through a COVID-19 outbreak. (Nataasha Hilu Komakjuak)

The Nunavut government reported 10 new COVID-19 cases in the territory, according to a news release issued Thursday.

All the cases are in Arviat, which now has 14 active cases. There have also been four recoveries.

"Now that they've had this period of curfew the numbers are dropping," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said in an update to media, Thursday afternoon. 

"I know today is not the news that everyone wanted to hear. But remember it was 25 cases on Thursday last week, 14 today, [and] still no evidence of uncontrolled transmission," he continued. "So if things continue on this way we can look at working with the hamlet to ease some of the measures next week." 

Arviat has seen, by far, more cases than any other community in the territory since the start of the pandemic. The hamlet has had 325 of the territory's total 369 confirmed cases.

The territory says everyone currently infected is doing well and isolating at home. Contact tracing is ongoing. There is no evidence of community transmission or of vaccine failure, Patterson said. 

Failure would mean that someone contracted COVID-19 two weeks or more after being vaccinated. The territory is not sharing how many people have been vaccinated in the community.

'Reach out to friends and family by phone, text and virtually'

"Arviat — lockdown has been long and tiring. I know how hard you're working and how difficult this has been. For those with COVID-19, please remain isolated and stay focused on protecting your loved ones and community," said Premier Joe Savikataaq in a statement.

"All Nunavummiut are rooting for Arviarmiut, and we are here to support you. Reach out to friends and family by phone, text and virtually. Let's get the spread of the virus under control with positivity and determination."

In a statement accompanying Thursday's release, Patterson said health teams are still working "around the clock" in Arviat to trace the links between the cases.

Patterson says health authorities could start working with the hamlet to ease restrictions in Arviat as early as next week. (Beth Brown/CBC )

"Isolation and participation in the test, trace and isolate process are our best defenses and must be taken seriously. I want to remind Arviarmiut the importance of cooperating with all public health measures to keep your friends, family, and community safe."

Rapid testing kits are being sent to at-risk and isolated communities like Arviat and Sanikiluaq, as well as to communities with an elder care home. 

There have been 2,419 negative tests in Arviat as of Thursday.

So far, 8,628 Nunavummiut have received at least one dose of the Moderna vaccine, and 5,125 Nunavummiut have received at least two doses.

Territory aims to finish second dose clinics in April 

Vaccine clinics in the territory are ongoing. The territory said it has received 2,6000 doses so far. Community clinics for second doses will extend into next month. 

"We'll have enough doses to vaccinate 75 per cent of the population by the end of the month, but we won't have two clinics in every community by the end of March. There will be some going into April," Patterson said.  

This was always going to be the case, he said, because the last shipment is expected to arrive partway through the month. 

Nunavut's Minister of Health Lorne Kusugak will have an announcement about further vaccination plans on Friday in the Legislative Assembly.  

Residents who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can call their health centre for an appointment, the territory says. Kusugak extended the territory's public health emergency until March 18.

Kusugak said Thursday that the government is working to avoid burn out for its health staff in Arviat, and to support the mental health of resident in lockdown. 

Anyone who thinks they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call the COVID-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, or immediately notify their community health centre right away, and isolate at home for 14 days.

People are asked not to go to the health centre in person.