Sick kids, N.W.T. tourists and COVID-19: Your physical distancing questions answered here

The N.W.T.'s director of public safety and a family physician from Toronto answered your questions about physical distancing and isolation on Trail’s End, hosted by Lawrence Nayally.

Doctor, public safety director answer questions from N.W.T. callers on CBC Trail's End

A file photo of a social distancing, now referred to as physical distancing, sign in Charlottetown. N.W.T. officials answered listeners' questions in a call-in show on Thursday afternoon. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

COVID-19 is having unprecedented effects on our daily lives. For most, working and socializing looks completely different today than how it did just weeks ago. 

Directions from public health officials to practise "physical distancing" (the new term now widely being used by health officials) and in certain cases, "self-isolation," are leaving many in the N.W.T. with questions.

On Thursday afternoon, Trail's End host Lawrence Nayally hosted a call-in show with Ivan Russell, the director of public safety with the N.W.T. Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, and Dr. Iris Gorfinkel, a family physician and vaccine researcher in Toronto.

Russell and Gorfinkel answered questions about physical distancing and the transmission of COVID-19. Here are some of your questions, and their answers.

How effective is physical distancing?

Staying home and away from others makes a "massive difference" when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19, said Gorfinkel.

Proper physical distancing means keeping at least two metres apart from other people, not going to school, working from home and separating people who have the virus from their family members.

Physical distancing may be taking a terrible toll on the economy, but, said Gorfinkle, "by reducing the number of people who are infected, we're saving a huge amount of money and we're saving a huge amount of lives."

What do I do if my child is sick?

Even if it seems like they have a common cold — they're eating and sleeping well — the child and all family members should isolate, said Gorfinkle. 

"We treat everybody like they have COVID so we prevent the spread of that disease," she said, adding that it's important to arrange a visit with the doctor. 

Dr. Iris Gorfinkel is a Toronto-based family physician. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

My child wants to hang out with friends. What do I tell them?

"The kids should not be going out," said Gorfinkel.

People can have the virus even if they aren't showing symptoms, she said, which means they can still transmit it to others.

"It's a no-go for play dates for now." 

Were tourists who tested positive after leaving Yellowknife contagious while in N.W.T.?

Earlier this week it was reported that a group of Hong Kong tourists who visited Yellowknife tested positive for COVID-19 after they left Canada.

Whether they were contagious while visiting N.W.T., said Gorfinkel, depends on whether they were sick at the time.

If they tested positive immediately after visiting Yellowknife, then they were contagious while they were in Yellowknife, she said. However, she added, if they tested positive a month or two after leaving, then they wouldn't have been contagious while visiting the city.

The Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife. 'We treat everybody like they have COVID so we prevent the spread of that disease,' said Dr. Iris Gorfinkel. She said if a child is sick, parents should arrange a visit with a doctor. (Walter Strong/CBC)

If those tourists were contagious while they were in Yellowknife, they would have posed the greatest risk to people that came within two metres of them, said Gorfinkle.

"It's not transmitted through food or brief contact," she said. "We think it's more prolonged contact."

Preventing visitors from bringing the disease into the N.W.T. was the government's reason for closing the border to most non-residents.

What is the N.W.T. government doing to make sure people follow public health guidance?

The public health office has gotten a number of reports of house parties and other discouraged social gatherings, said Russell.

"There's a lot of discussion about increasing that response to those folks to make sure that they become compliant, especially anyone who's exhibiting symptoms," he said. But right now, public health officials still have "a lot to follow-up on to deal with those issues."

Gorfinkel said countries that "did come down hard" on house parties and social gatherings were much better at containing the spread of COVID-19.

Extra advice

Gorfinkel also offered advice to help people keep themselves and their families safe. 

A cheap and easy disinfectant can be made at home by mixing one part bleach with nine parts water, she said. "Boom. You've got a spray that will kill corona[virus]."

She also said that sleeping and eating well, getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, and not smoking are critical to keeping the immune system strong.

She reminded listeners that COVID-19 is transmitted through droplets expelled when people cough, laugh and sneeze. People get infected when they breathe in those droplets, or when they touch surfaces those droplets have landed on and then touch their nose or mouth. 

She said people can protect themselves by washing their hands with good soap for 20 seconds and by refraining from touching their face.

Based on a call-in show hosted by Lawrence Nayally