Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, speaks at a news conference in Iqaluit on November 6, 2020. He says the territory's capacity to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19 is stretched and that's why the government has shut down business, schools and non-essential services for two weeks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Emma Tranter

Capacity ‘stretched’ as Nunavut deals with rising COVID-19 cases: top doctor

Capacity ‘stretched’ as Nunavut deals with rising COVID-19 cases: top doctor

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut’s chief public health officer says capacity to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19 is “stretched,” which is why the government has shut down the territory for two weeks to try to get cases of COVID-19 under control.

The territory reported its first case Nov. 6 and the total has jumped to 70 in less than two weeks.

Dr. Michael Patterson says the Health Department has “some reserve capacity”— but not much.

“Knowing that we’re close to our limit in terms of capacity right now, that’s the rationale for bringing these orders in place,” Patterson said at a news conference Wednesday.

Lorne Kusugak, Nunavut’s health minister, said the federal government has assured him it will step in with “as much help as they can” if needed.

“We don’t want to have to go there, but if there was a need … for the military to come and give us support, that they would be able to go to that extent,” Kusugak said.

Arviat, a community of about 2,800 people, has 54 of Nunavut’s active cases, eight are in Whale Cove and six are in Rankin Inlet — all along the northwestern coast of Hudson Bay. Two other infections are in Sanikiluaq, the southernmost community in Nunavut.

Patterson said all the infected individuals are isolating at home and doing well.

He said it’s “too soon to tell” if earlier public health orders in Arviat have stopped community transmission, nor can he point to any event in particular that contributed to the spread.

The situation is not as bad elsewhere, he added.

“In other communities, things are more stable. We’re at, or certainly closer to, having it stabilized and contained.”

Patterson said it’s still not known how exactly the novel coronavirus made it to Nunavut, which had been free of COVID-19 for the first eight months of the pandemic. An investigation continues.

Premier Joe Savikataaq urged Nunavummiut to follow public health orders that came into effect Wednesday.

“Don’t visit outside your household. Don’t gather or socialize. Don’t travel unless absolutely necessary,” Savikataaq said.

“This is it, folks. It’s time to take a stand and fight against COVID-19. We need you all to make sacrifices now to protect our communities.”

All schools and non-essential businesses are closed, as are libraries, fitness centres, government offices and personal services.

Health centres are closed except for emergencies and the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit is not accepting walk-ins.

Gatherings are restricted to five people and are not allowed in homes.

Masks are mandatory in communities with active cases of COVID-19 and are “strongly recommended” in all other places.

In Iqaluit, streets were quiet and parking lots mostly empty on the first day of the shutdown.

Some residents wearing face masks and with their parkas braced against gusting wind carried groceries home or waited in line outside the Canada Post office.

Two weeks ago, face masks were rarely seen in the capital. Now, no one can enter a grocery store without one.

Northmart, one of two food stores in the city, had shorter wait times Wednesday compared with long lineups the night before.

Nunavut went into a similar shutdown in March, but restrictions were lifted over the summer because the territory hadn’t had any cases.

There is some in-territory testing in Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit. Patterson said the machine in Rankin Inlet can handle four tests an hour, while the one in Iqaluit can do eight.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2020.

___

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship

Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
Organizers of central Alberta anti-lockdown rodeo plead not guilty

Ty and Gail Northcott charged under the Public Health Act

(Black Press file photo.)
Road closures at both ends of Red Deer next week

Red Deer motorists should expect delays with road closures in the north… Continue reading

(File photo by Advocate staff)
37-year-old from Red Deer dies in highway crash

An individual from Red Deer has died after a collision on Highway… Continue reading

Grade one teacher Heidi Dimou arranges the desks in line with physical distancing policy in her class in preparation for the new school year at the Willingdon Elementary School in Montreal, on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta students expected to return to in-person learning next week

Kids can anticipate a return to the classroom next week in Alberta.… Continue reading

This grizzly bear had been hanging out near Aurum Lodge and the Cline River area and was later killed by Fish and Wildlife, says an area resident. (Contributed photo)
Grizzly sniffing for human food west of Nordegg killed

Lodge owner reminds campers to keep all food away from wildlife

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

(CPAC)
Trudeau says he knew about investigation into general overseeing vaccines weeks ago

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he learned weeks ago that… Continue reading

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Canadian residents are allowed to head to the United States for a COVID-19 vaccine and avoid quarantine on return if they meet some straightforward conditions, the Public Health Agency of Canada confirms.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canadians can drive to U.S. for COVID-19 vax and avoid quarantine, Ottawa confirms

TORONTO — Canadian residents are allowed to head to the United States… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Quebec can modify part of the Canadian Constitution unilaterally: Trudeau

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Quebec can unilaterally modify part… Continue reading

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, file photo, giant bucket-wheel excavators extract coal at the controversial Garzweiler surface coal mine near Jackerath, West Germany. Canadian environmentalists are welcoming a report from the International Energy Agency that says new fossil fuel investment must end if the world is to meet its climate goals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Martin Meissner
Canadian environmentalists happy with International Energy Agency report

Environmentalists say a report from the International Energy Agency that concludes investment… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ceasefire needed in Israeli-Palestinian conflict to avoid loss of more civilians: PM

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is calling for a… Continue reading

A forest fire burns late into the evening northeast of Prince Albert, Sask., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis
Saskatchewan wildfire grows, forcing evacuations in the area to expand

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — Dry conditions and strong winds caused a large… Continue reading

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Tam hopeful for summer even as Canada hits grim death milestone in COVID-19 pandemic

OTTAWA — Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says she expects… Continue reading

Sheffield United’s Daniel Jebbison celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Sheffield United at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Alex Pantling/Pool via AP
Canadian teenager Daniel Jebbison turns heads with Premier League goal

Jebbison, 17, is the youngest player in Premier League history to score on his first start in England’s top tier

Most Read