About 100 people vaccinated each day in Iqaluit, top doctor says

Public health is looking at ways to increase its capacity to deliver vaccines as demand is  high and health staff are busy, Dr. Michael Patterson said Wednesday. 

Health staff are stretched, many working 10 to 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week

Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson gave an update on COVID-19 at a news conference on Wednesday morning. (Jackie McKay/CBC News)

Iqaluit is vaccinating about 100 people a day, Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said at a news conference on Wednesday. 

Public health is looking at ways to increase its capacity to deliver vaccines as demand is high and health staff are busy, he said. 

Health staff are stretched while managing the outbreak and supporting the vaccine rollout. Most are working 10 to 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week to respond to the outbreak, Patterson said. 

The high demand for vaccines at this time is partially because many people got their first dose about a month ago when COVID-19 was discovered in Iqaluit and are now due for their second dose. As well, Patterson said the demand for first doses is higher than anticipated. 

The division of operations within the Department of Health is working with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. to develop plans for a potential mass vaccination clinic in the city as well as working with the Inuit organization for advocacy related to getting people vaccinated. 

First fine of outbreak issued

Since the lockdown began in Iqaluit there have been 119 complaints to the RCMP of public health measure violations. 

Those complaints have resulted in five arrests and one fine for someone who was COVID-19 positive and was out in the community, breaking their isolation. 

Contract tracing followed this individual, but no new cases have been identified from them. 

There have also been 11 written warnings and 36 verbal warnings, Savikataaq said. 

Missed the news conference? Watch it here:

Iqaluit food centre staff have COVID-19 exposure

Staff at Iqaluit's Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre will be off work on Wednesday due to a potential exposure to COVID-19 in a staff member.

Staff are getting tested and depending on the results, may be back to work Thursday, Patterson said.

The food centre will remain open however, with the help of workers from the City of Iqaluit, which was given money in two instalments from the territorial government for food security.

Expanded surveillance testing

The Nunavut government is expanding its surveillance testing program to include residential buildings where more than one unit has had positive cases of COVID-19. 

Public health will deliver invitations door-to-door to residents in those buildings to get tested for COVID-19. Patterson said testing is voluntary, but he encouraged people to cooperate with the testing as a way to reduce potential spread. 

So far, four buildings have been identified for testing, but Patterson said the government will not be publicly releasing which buildings will be offered this service. 

As of Wednesday, the territory had 63 active cases of COVID-19, with all but one in Iqaluit, the other case is in Kinngait. Since the pandemic began, there have been a total of 634 cases in Nunavut.

There's been 59 cases of COVID-19 in children under 18 years of age since the start of the outbreak and Patterson said 16 of those cases were diagnosed in the last seven days. 

Recoveries have outpaced new cases in recent days in Iqaluit, but Patterson has said restrictions will continue in order to flatten the curve and end the outbreak in the city. 

In the past, Patterson said he's seen a trend of cases trending down as the week ends, and a swelling of cases mid-week after weekend activities cause transmission of the virus.

Health officials in Nunavut are also waiting for a response to their request for Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine doses for all teenagers in the territory.

The request went to the federal government and Patterson said Monday that he expected to hear back from the central office coordinating the shipping of vaccine later this week. 

The N.W.T. began administering Pfizer vaccines to youth in that territory last week, and Yukon youth will begin receiving their first Pfizer shots later this month.