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Presumptive case of COVID-19 reported at Nunavut's Mary River Mine

Nunavut's chief public health officer announced a presumptive case of COVID-19 at Nunavut's Mary River Mine, 176 kilometres southwest of Pond Inlet.

Individual recently entered the territory for work and situation 'contained,' says top doctor

There is a presumptive case of COVID-19 in Nunavut at the Mary River Mine, 176 kilometres southwest of Pond Inlet, the territory’s chief public health officer announced Thursday. (Baffinland)

There is a presumptive case of COVID-19 in Nunavut at the Mary River Mine, the territory's chief public health officer announced Thursday.

The mine is located about 176 kilometres southwest of Pond Inlet.

Nunavut has been the only jurisdiction in Canada without a confirmed case of COVID-19 so far. One case was reported in Pond Inlet on April 30, but that case was later determined to have been a false positive.

"The individual is in isolation away from co-workers and doing well," said Dr. Michael Patterson in a news release Thursday.

Patterson said the situation is "contained." He assured residents that the person "recently entered the territory for work, and there has been no contact between Mary River workers and any of the surrounding communities."

Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, the company that runs the Mary River Mine, sent its Nunavut workers home with pay in response to the pandemic in March.

No Nunavut residents have worked at the mine since, says Thursday's release. 

Worker tested positive twice at mine

The worker tested positive twice on back-to-back days, Patterson said during a news conference at the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. He said the government found out about the case Wednesday night. 

Test results from the mine site can only be considered presumptive Patterson said, because the testing setup at the mine has not gone through "rigorous checks" that southern labs have.

Presumptive means the test has been confirmed locally but needs to be confirmed by an accredited testing facility. 

The test is being sent to Ontario and the Nunavut government expects the results early next week.

"Until then this is being classified as a probable case for Nunavut. If the additional testing yields a positive result this will be considered Nunavut's first case of COVID-19," said Patterson. 

Because mining is considered an essential service, mine workers on shift rotations are not required to isolate before coming to Nunavut, he said. 

"COVID-19 is still a very real threat. The pandemic is not over. I urge Nunavummiut to take this reminder seriously," Patterson said.

 Missed the presser? Watch it here:  

Mine operations will continue, says government

The news release states the Health Department is monitoring the situation closely and is "ready to provide support and respond if and when necessary."

Baffinland initiated contact tracing and all known contacts have been put into isolation, says the release.

Patterson said at least 12 people have come into contact with the person. Baffinland later confirmed there are currently nine people in isolation, including the person who has tested positive.

There is no need for Nunavummiut to worry about the spread of COVID-19 in relation to this case.- George Hickes, Nunavut Health Minister

Since this is an isolated case, says the news release, operations at the mine will continue for now.

"There is no need for Nunavummiut to worry about the spread of COVID-19 in relation to this case," Health Minister George Hickes said in the release. "All necessary precautions are in place, and workers at the mine have not had any contact with any community members."

Hickes reminded residents that everyone has role to play in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

"Now is the time to stay vigilant with our public health measures," he said.

The presumptive case does not affect the territory's public health measures, Nunavut's reopening plan, or the travel bubble between Nunavut and Northwest Territories, reads the release.

The Health Department advises anyone who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 to call the COVID hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., or to contact their community health centre and immediately isolate at home for 14 days. 

"Please do not go to the health centre in person," reads the release.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, says the Health Department.

It says the best protection from spreading or catching the disease is maintaining physical distance, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, and staying home as much as possible. 

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