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City facilities, businesses opt to temporarily close in Yellowknife amid COVID-19 outbreak

The Fieldhouse, City Hall, and some restaurants were among the first to announce closures Tuesday.

The city's Fieldhouse and city hall are now closed

Yellowknife City Hall, captured in this file image, is closing while the city deals with a surge in COVID-19 cases connected to an outbreak at N.J. Macpherson School, first detected over the weekend. (Andrew Pacey/CBC)

The City of Yellowknife's Fieldhouse, along with City Hall, are closed effective immediately.

Those are the latest facilities to shut down as the city grapples with COVID-19 cases connected to an outbreak at the N.J. Macpherson School. On Monday, the Northwest Territories government said there were over 1,000 close contacts connected to the cases.

The city said in a news release Tuesday that it's implementing the changes as a response to the public exposure risks and close contacts update from the territorial government Monday.

"With multiple exposure locations in Yellowknife, a number of city staff must isolate, and certain city facilities close," the news release said. "The City's top priorities remain public and staff safety."

On Saturday, a two-week closure of N.J. Macpherson school was ordered, and on Sunday all schools in Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah were ordered closed. The closure of schools in Behchokǫ̀ was announced Monday.

Yellowknife Public Transit and Yellowknife Accessible Transit services will continue to operate but at limited capacity, according to the news release.

All essential services will also keep operating.

As well, the Yellowknife Public Library, the Multiplex, the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool and city parks and playgrounds will all remain open to people aged 18 and older, provided they wear a face mask. Revised schedules could apply, and additional public safety measures are in place at each facility, the release says. Schedules and detailed, facility-specific information are available online.

"As Yellowknifers are reacting to the COVID outbreak with resilience and compassion, I want to thank everyone for taking action to be safe," said Mayor Rebecca Alty in a statement.

"If we all take the necessary steps, we hope to reduce the number of cases of COVID-19, and all return to good health as quickly as possible."

Sheila Bassi-Kellett, city manager, said in the news release that it's important for the city to react "swiftly to the information provided by the Chief Public Health Officer."

"This may cause disruption to our residents as little notice may be provided and I would like to thank Yellowknifers for your continued patience and understanding as we work to keep our community safe."

The Yellowknife RCMP Detachment's front counter services have been paused for the time being. While policing continues, the front entrance will be locked to the public.

Court changes

There will be some changes to Territorial Court hearings.

All criminal and youth court proceedings outside Yellowknife before May 27 are cancelled, though "emergency matters" that come up from communities outside of the city will be dealt with "as the circumstances require," the N.W.T. courts website reads.

Wellness court and DVTO court proceedings are cancelled until after May 26. Anyone who is detained and faces pending charges that arise from outside of Yellowknife will appear via video-link before Territorial Court in Yellowknife as scheduled.

Anyone not in custody who has scheduled appearances before May 27 will see the court issue an arrest warrant to be used only if the individual doesn't attend their new court date, the website says.

All civil and family docket days in Yellowknife before May 27 are cancelled unless otherwise directed, however counsel can bring the matter forward as an agent of individuals.

Restaurants close

The Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery and the Copperhouse Eatery and Lounge each announced Tuesday they would be closing for a week.

"In light of the recent outbreak in Yellowknife, and with the health and well-being of our community in mind, we have made the difficult decision once again to temporarily close The Woodyard to in-person dining for this week," the company wrote in a Facebook post. "We will make this preliminary shift in our operation for now and reassess the situation as it unfolds."

Both restaurants said they would be offering takeout in the meantime.

Other announced temporary closures include:

  • Bullocks Bistro (two week closure).
  • Yellowknife Racquet Club (suspended fitness class schedule from Monday to May 9, the gym and squash courts remain open).
  • Birchwood Coffee Kǫ̀ (closed for one week, until May 10).
  • Wing Freak (closed May 7-9).
  • Rainbow Coalition is moving to all virtual activities.

The Black Knight is staying open but suspending Saturday family brunches and suppers.

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