Yellowknife has gone 14 days without a new COVID-19 case, but more are 'inevitable'
Chief public health officer talks about masks, a day shelter, and the COVID-19 secretariat at weekly update
It's been 14 days since the last active case of COVID-19 was reported in Yellowknife, and there's been no evidence of community spread.
In her weekly briefing with reporters Wednesday, the N.W.T.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola expressed gratitude to those who have recently recovered.
"Each took the right steps," she said.
Kandola noted that the cases were a reminder that 80 per cent of people who get COVID-19 will recover safely at home.
Currently, just one case of COVID-19 remains active in the territory, in Inuvik. That case was also determined not to pose a threat of further spread.
Public health measures in the territory are more important than ever as the pandemic "continues to accelerate" across Canada, Kandola said.
"More cases are inevitable," she said.
Kandola thanked businesses that have continued to follow safety measures diligently.
But she suggested now would be a good time to update COVID-19 exposure plans, and said officials from the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission are available to help.
Thanks to Anytime Fitness
Kandola singled out Anytime Fitness, the Yellowknife gym listed as a place of possible COVID-19 exposure last month, for working in "great partnership" with public health.
She also scolded those who jumped to conclusions about the safety of that location after the potential exposure was announced.
"Jumping to conclusions is not helpful," she said.
No transmission of the illness was detected at Anytime Fitness, Kandola said, because of the public health measures the gym has put in place.
"Everyone is making a big sacrifice in this pandemic," she said. "The right reaction is to open our arms and support each other."
Wastewater testing for COVID-19 is now in place in Yellowknife, Fort Simpson and Inuvik. Health officials are also ready to install testing capacity in Fort Smith and Hay River, Kandola said.
A day shelter solution?
During Wednesday's briefing several reporters pressed Kandola on whether she could use emergency powers to bring about a solution to the needed day shelter for those without homes in Yellowknife.
Kandola said no, adding that public health orders are not to be used to deliver social programs, nor are they to be applied when there is no "imminent threat," such as growing community spread.
The day shelter is needed because the previous day shelter is at lower capacity to allow for distancing. Asked whether she would consider lifting those requirements, Kandola said no, adding the risk of COVID-19 entering the N.W.T. "has never been so high."
No orders mandating masks are in the works, Kandola said. However, she did advise people to wear masks indoors, "especially as winter progresses."
She also encouraged employers to encourage staff to wear masks if they regularly interact with the public.
Asked to comment on the recent debate over the COVID-19 secretariat, Kandola was clear: "I need the COVID secretariat's support."
Some MLAs expressed concern this week that money for the secretariat could be better spent on things that are actually killing people now, such as drug and alcohol abuse.
Kandola said the situation could still change "dramatically," pointing to Manitoba, which has seen a rapid rise in cases since Thanksgiving that is now threatening the health care system.
"We cannot have a scenario like that."