Wastewater Surveillance Signals Undetected COVID-19 in Yellowknife
YELLOWKNIFE December 9, 2020 – Wastewater samples analyzed in Yellowknife from November 30 to December 2, 2020 has signaled undetected COVID-19.
Wastewater testing basics
Wastewater is collected from the City of Yellowknife regularly.
In these results, public health can see if COVID-19 is present or absent. When there are cases of COVID-19, public health would expect to get results back with COVID-19 in the results.
They are also able to compare the amount of virus in the wastewater with any cases identified in a community to determine whether there is more present than would be expected.
This allows public health to take wastewater results which are out-of-the-ordinary, and target proactive surveillance on those who have recently travelled to identify other cases of COVID-19.
Currently, the NWT’s largest risk for COVID-19 comes from individuals who have travelled outside the NWT since all cases thus far have been linked to travel.
What You Need To Do
Anyone who was self-isolating in Yellowknife since November 30 until present should have a COVID-19 test.
This means if, between November 30 and now, you were in Yellowknife and at any stage of your self-isolation because of traveling into NWT, you should get tested now even if you don’t have symptoms.
Essential services workers who were in Yellowknife between November 30 and now, who received exemptions to work should also be tested.
This recommendation to get tested does not apply to high risk essential service workers without symptoms who were already tested as part of their permission to work (e.g. health care workers).
These workers should continue to follow the routine advice from their employer or permission to work letter.
Those who are self-isolating because someone else in the household has travelled should continue self-isolating. They do not need to get tested unless they develop symptoms.
If anyone in the home develops any symptoms of COVID-19, they should contact their local public health unit and arrange for testing.
Otherwise, public health guidance in Yellowknife and NWT remains the same:
- Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, especially household members of someone who was isolating in Yellowknife during the time frame above, should arrange testing for COVID-19 and follow isolation guidance.
- follow self-isolation guidance as required
- Stay home if you are sick
- Wear a non-medical mask in public places
The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer is confident that this positive signal indicates that there is likely an undetected case of COVID-19 in Yellowknife.
It is possible that this signal is from one or more individuals who have travelled and who are now appropriately self-isolating, or have even left the territory.
But it is also possible that COVID-19 has been transmitted to others.
Currently, there is not enough information to confidently assess public risk.
But with evidence pointing towards at least one undetected case of COVID-19 in Yellowknife, we are asking the public’s assistance in identifying any cases so we can contain the situation quickly, and prevent ongoing transmission.
Results from individuals presenting for diagnostic testing, and additional wastewater surveillance analysis expected in the next 1-2 days will allow us to better characterize the risk to the public in Yellowknife, and the NWT.
What we do know is there were close to 300 COVID-19 tests done in Yellowknife from November 30 through today. All were negative.
Public health has worked with the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority to ensure staff is available to address a surge in COVID-19 testing.
For those who require testing:
- Book your appointment online at this link for the COVID Clinic at the Yellowknife Primary Care Clinic. There will be specific appointments available for those recommended to best tested in this advisory.
- If you do not use the internet, call Yellowknife public health at 867-767-9120 or your local health centre if you are now in your home community.
- Tell them you have recently travelled or were self-isolating between November 30 and December 9 and that you need to be tested for COVID-19.
- If you are getting tested in Yellowknife, come to the front door of Yellowknife Primary Care Clinic and go to Pod B to the left – the COVID Clinic.
- If you are being tested in another community, please follow instructions on how to safely get tested at the site.
There will likely be high call volumes.
If you do not get through, please leave your name and number on the voicemail. Please stay isolated, and wait for someone to call you back from public health. If you do not hear back in 24 hours, please call back.
Remember: please do not go to the health centre without booking an appointment, or calling ahead – especially if you are being tested in Yellowknife. It is very important to control patient flow so people are not put at risk by bigger crowds, and the health centre does not get overloaded.
Confidential and supportive
If you do receive a positive COVID-19 test, public health officials will work with you to confidentially investigate any people you saw recently who may be at-risk, and any locations where there may have been an exposure risk.
Your information will be kept confidential and public health officials will follow-up on your well-being regularly throughout your isolation period to help keep you safe.
All commentary is attributable to Dr. Kami Kandola, Chief Public Health Officer for the Northwest Territories.
There will be a media availability later in the day. An advisory indicating the time and location will be forthcoming.