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Should I get tested? Are more cases expected? N.W.T. doctors answer your COVID-19 questions

The N.W.T.'s top doctors took listeners' questions Thursday morning live on CBC Radio's The Trailbreaker. As of Thursday, there were 129 active cases in the N.W.T. including a case in a non-resident. Of those cases, 108 are in the Sahtu region.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola, Medical Director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg took questions live

Terriorial Medical Director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, left, and N.W.T. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola took questions live on The Trailbreaker Thursday. (CBC)

Amid a widespread outbreak, traced to a handgames event in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., the territory's top doctors worked to answer questions from the public on CBC radio Thursday morning.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola and Territorial Medical Director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg took listeners' questions about COVID-19 live on The Trailbreaker with host Loren McGinnis. 

As of Thursday, there are 129 active cases in the N.W.T., including a case in a non-resident, according to the territory's COVID-19 website. Of those cases, 108 are in the Sahtu region in N.W.T. residents, including 22 in Colville Lake, five in Délınę, 72 in Fort Good Hope and nine in Norman Wells. There are also 19 cases in Yellowknife.

Kandola said waste water signals are up in Yellowknife and Norman Wells and she said more cases are anticipated in the territory. She also said it's assumed that all of the cases are the Delta variant.

Both doctors reminded anyone in the territory who feels sick to isolate and arrange for testing, and let the health staff know whether they are symptomatic. They said anyone who has not received the vaccine should also call their health centre and make arrangements to get inoculated.

Here's a summary of some of the questions asked:

What is the N.W.T.'s medical response?

Pegg said medical teams are working "flat out," particularly in the Sahtu communities. She said rapid response teams have been sent to Fort Good Hope, and nursing resources were sent to Colville Lake. Extra support was also sent to Norman Wells to help deal with the outbreak in its long-term care facility.

"It's not the most robust in terms of flexibility and staffing at this point but we've been able to respond, everyone's come together," she said.

"It's certainly far from being calm and controlled, staff working long hours and long days, but we're getting the work that needs to be done so far done."

Contact tracing is still underway.

The doctors said health staff are working especially hard to identify and test people in the communities who are at higher risk of severe illness, such as those who have been exposed and are unvaccinated.

I was in an area at the time and place listed in an exposure notice. Should I get tested?

Pegg said there's a "huge spike" in demand for testing, and that the territory can't test every person who passed through the places identified in exposure notices. The territory is working to test those who are most likely to be infected and be at higher risk of severe disease.

Further, residents should note that not every exposure notice issued by the office of the chief public health officer directs people to get testing — most advise people to self-monitor and only test if symptoms develop. The territory says it will test everyone who was at an exposure site that was directed for testing. It says those people should book an appointment to do so.

The territory also has said it is critical that anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms isolate and get tested.

What is the testing process?

Negative swabs for those who are contacts of a positive case or for anyone who has symptoms that are completed on the point-of-care devices get sent for confirmatory testing, the territory said. Positive results on the point-of-care devices are considered confirmed positive cases.

How long do COVID-19 symptoms last?

Pegg said the symptoms of the illness can last a varying number of days depending on the person and their vaccination status. People might feel feverish, have a cough and generally feel unwell from a few days, to a week to 10 days, or maybe longer.

A cough can last even longer, she said. There's also concern for long COVID, which is a syndrome where people experience some symptoms much longer than usual, though there's still much more to learn about this condition.

In general, Pegg said most symptoms tend to clear up in about two weeks from the time they appear.

Are there projections on how much bigger this outbreak might get?

The numbers are going to increase because of the type of exposure, Kandola said.

"We had a superspreader event. We're assuming everyone in Fort Good Hope has been exposed, and everyone in Colville Lake," Kandola said. "We do anticipate the numbers to get larger."

Missed the show? Watch it here:

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