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3 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife, no new exposure sites

As of Monday, there were 51 active COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife, with 92 per cent of those cases among children and youth.

There are partially or fully vaccinated people in the N.W.T. who contracted COVID-19, officials confirm

Northwest Territories public health officials announced three new COVID-19 cases and three probable cases in Yellowknife on Monday, but no new exposure sites. (NIAID Integrated Research Facility/Reuters)

The spread of COVID-19 cases linked to an outbreak at a Yellowknife elementary school appears to be slowing down, with three new confirmed cases, and three probable cases announced Monday.

There are now 51 confirmed, active COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife, up from 48 on Friday, according to an update from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.

The update sent out Monday says 92 per cent of the confirmed cases are among children and youth, with the average age being about 8 years old.

The update says 65 per cent of cases are symptomatic.

No new exposure notifications were issued Monday.

The outbreak that started at N.J. Macpherson School, first reported on May 2, ballooned to dozens of cases last week. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said that 90 per cent of the city's 47 active cases last Thursday were in children and youth. 

No N.W.T. children hospitalized from COVID-19

As of Monday, no children or youth in the Northwest Territories had been hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, according to Darren Campbell, a spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.

The Yellowknife outbreak has forced more than 1,000 people into isolation and caused the closure of city facilities, as well as schools in Yellowknife, Ndilo, Dettah and Behchokǫ̀. 

It's still unclear when schools will reopen.

A list of exposure sites has been posted to the territorial government's website.  

Kandola reminds vaccinated contacts to stick to isolation

Also on Monday, Kandola reminded the public that everyone who has been told to isolate must do so, even if they're fully vaccinated. 

While the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines prevent serious illness and death, people who are partially and fully vaccinated can still get sick and transmit the virus, she said. 

There remain "large numbers of unvaccinated people," such as children, in the Northwest Territories, and the new variants are more transmissible, said Kandola.

"In situations of very high exposures to COVID-19, there will still be people who develop COVID-19 infections even if they are fully vaccinated," she said. "The risk for fully vaccinated individuals is likely about one-tenth the risk of non-vaccinated individuals."

Campbell confirmed that there are "partially or fully vaccinated people in the N.W.T. who contracted COVID-19."

However, he wouldn't disclose how many vaccinated people had tested positive, nor would he say what their symptoms were, citing patient confidentiality and "the low number of instances where that's the case in the N.W.T." 

Kandola has also said there is no "community spread" in Yellowknife. Community spread, according to her spokesperson, would mean "health officials are unable to trace the source of the infection." 

Public health officials have not publicly pinned down the source of the N.J. Macpherson outbreak, but Kandola said last week there's a possible link to an earlier cluster of cases in Yellowknife that included Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn.

Also last week, the territory began vaccinating children ages 12 to 17 years old with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Kandola said the Northwest Territories is the first jurisdiction in Canada to offer the vaccine to those aged 12 to 15.

On Tuesday at 6 p.m., the territory will open up appointments for young people and people in isolation. Appointments can be made online for the following days:

Wednesday, May 12

  • Pfizer-BioNTech for 12- to 17-year-olds who are not isolating. 
  • Pfizer-BioNTech for 12- to 17-year-olds who are currently isolating.

Thursday, May 13

  • Moderna for residents 18 years and over who are currently isolating.

Anyone who is isolating will need proof of an exemption to leave isolation to get vaccinated, which they can get by emailing cpho@gov.nt.ca.

Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief urges citizens to get vaccinated

In a joint statement with Premier Caroline Cochrane, Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie urged Tłı̨chǫ citizens and residents to get vaccinated to help protect those who can't, such as very young children. (Tłı̨chǫ Government)

In a joint statement issued Monday Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie and Premier Caroline Cochrane urged Tłı̨chǫ citizens and residents to get vaccinated.

They said the past week has been a reminder of how quickly the virus can spread. "If enough people get vaccinated, it can help to prevent the virus from spreading across the Tłı̨chǫ region and protect those who are not yet able to get the vaccine such as young children," reads the statement. 

"We need more people in the Tłı̨chǫ region to get the vaccine to be confident that Tłı̨chǫ people will be protected from COVID."

A Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine clinic for young people ages 12 to 17 will be held in Behchokǫ̀ on May 11. 

Residents can contact the Health Centre at 392-6075 for more information.

The statement said the Moderna vaccine has been shown to protect 94 per cent of people from getting COVID-19, while the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine has been shown to protect 95 per cent of people 12 years of age and older from getting the disease.

With files from Juanita Taylor

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