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Nunavut health minister blames misinformation in Igloolik COVID-19 outbreak

At a news conference Tuesday, Health Minister John Main called out those spreading misinformation in communities, comparing the vaccine to a life jacket.

John Main compared vaccines to lifejackets and said it's sad anyone would deter someone from getting one

Nunavut Health Minister John Main said it is sad that residents are using misinformation to deter Nunavummiut from getting vaccinated. (Steve Silva/ CBC)

Nunavut's health minister said it's "really sad" that some Nunavummiut are sharing misinformation to deter people from getting vaccinated. 

"I look at the vaccine and it's like a life jacket," said John Main, territorial health minister, in a news conference on Tuesday. "To be going around and telling people 'don't wear a life jacket, don't wear a life jacket,' it's really sad."

Main was asked by NNSL about the impact misinformation from local radio stations is having on certain communities. 

Main said he expects the misinformation to be "playing a role" in the current outbreak in Igloolik where there are 94 active cases, the most active cases in any Nunavut community. 

As of Jan. 25, Igloolik also had one of the lowest vaccination rate among Nunavut communities, with just 54 per cent of people over five double vaccinated and 75 per cent with one dose. Across the territory, about 72 per cent of Nunavummiut have had both shots, and 90 per cent have had the first shot.

In the news conference, ministers and health officials were also questioned about the decision to return schools to 100 per cent capacity in Iqaluit on Monday.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, said the decision was based on best estimates of the risk. School is moved from in-person when the setting is determined to be high risk or due to staffing shortages. 

Main also gave an update on the outbreak at the Embassy West senior's home in Ottawa. He said there have been more recoveries and currently fewer than five clients, none from Nunavut, have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Outbreak at Iqaluit jail

The territory is also dealing with an outbreak at the Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility, where at least 30 inmates have tested positive. 

Justice Minister David Akeeagok said the new jail has room to accommodate people who have tested positive for COVID-19. 

"Thankfully the new facility has allowed us to have a separate wing for those dealing with COVID, so there is space to separate those with a positive case and those without," he said. 

The territory is also facing a record number of hospitalizations. Thirteen people have now been sent to hospital, up from nine that were reported last week. But Dr. Patterson said there isn't a plan to return to lockdown right now. 

"We still have fairly tight measures, unfortunately not everyone is following them and that contributes to some of the spread," Patterson said. 

"The other part to consider is Omicron, this new variant, has been a game changer around the world and if we went back into another lockdown similar to what we did just before Christmas, Omicron is not going to be gone in two weeks or four weeks." 

He said there would be another spike in cases when they exit lockdown. Dr. Patterson said they will try to support residents to be safe and monitor the workload on the healthcare system. 

"And intervene when those are going to be overloaded," he said. 

The numbers

As of Tuesday morning Nunavut has 462 positive cases in 18 communities. 

The list is as follows:

  • 10 in Kuglugktuk
  • seven in Naujaat
  • 24 in Taloyoak
  • 26 in Coral Harbour
  • seven in Whale Cove
  • 32 in Sanikiluaq
  • 21 in Kinngait
  • 14 in Pond Inlet
  • two in Chesterfield Inlet 
  • 39 in Cambridge Bay
  • 94 in Igloolik
  • 44 in Baker Lake
  • 21 in Arviat
  • seven in Sanirajak
  • two in Qikiqtarjuaq
  • 23 in Rankin Inlet
  • five in Pangnirtung
  • 84 in Iqaluit

An additional 83 recoveries were also reported. 

The territory announced that updated case numbers would no longer be released over the weekend, with updates coming on Monday. But important news, like outbreaks, will be announced over the weekend.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story reported that 15 people had been sent to hospital. In fact, the correct number is 13.
    Feb 01, 2022 6:04 PM CT

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