YELLOWKNIFE (March 26, 2021) – The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) has declared the outbreak at Gahcho Kué Mine over. The territory’s Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) initially declared an outbreak at the mine on February 3.
The last person diagnosed with COVID-19 during their employment at Gahcho Kué during this outbreak developed symptoms on February 23.
The total number of confirmed cases related to the outbreak was 20 – 12 out-of-territory workers and eight NWT residents. All of those who developed COVID-19 during this outbreak have recovered, meaning they do not have active infection that can be transmitted to others.
Gahcho Kué is located approximately 280 km northeast of Yellowknife.
Impact of the outbreak
The OCPHO recognizes that the Gahcho Kué outbreak produced significant impacts in the NWT. Assessing and self-isolating workers onsite and relocating workers to Yellowknife or to their home jurisdictions required a collaborative effort between the OCPHO and mine management and medics. Public health nurses and health care workers in Yellowknife provided ongoing assessment and health services for workers. Most of all, the outbreak impacted workers, their families, and their communities. Three workers were hospitalized as a result of this outbreak. Workers were required to self-isolate for prolonged periods. The OCPHO wishes to acknowledge the selflessness and goodwill of those who self-isolated to keep their friends, families, co-workers and the whole territory safe.
The OCPHO recognizes that since the start of the pandemic, Gahcho Kué mine has implemented a wide range of measures to help prevent the introduction of COVID-19 infections and mitigate the risk of transmission onsite. Additional measures implemented as a result of the outbreak include:
- Enhanced pre-travel telephone screening before employees travel to the mine.
- Mandatory rapid antigen tests for all employees prior to boarding aircraft to the mine (presumptive test will result in individual being denied travel to the mine).
- Expanding testing to include routine tests for all employees at day four and day eight after arrival, in addition to inbound and outbound testing.
- Further changes to work practices to reduce the chance of transmission (e.g. inbound employees required to remain in their rooms pending results of arrival PCR tests, employees allowed to eat meals in their rooms to further reduce the capacity of dining area).
- Improvements in the quarantine wings.
In addition to these measures, the GNWT has prioritized vaccinating both resident and non-resident rotational workers on mineral and petroleum projects in the NWT. Increasing immunity at these worksites will protect NWT residents, their families, and the communities these workers return to between shifts - particularly the most remote and vulnerable communities with limited access to health care. Every dose given in the NWT will continue to boost the territory’s overall defense against COVID-19.
The decision to vaccinate non-resident rotational workers is supported by the federal government and is occurring in other jurisdictions across Canada reliant on transitional workers to deliver essential services. Recent remote worksite outbreaks in the NWT and the development of new COVID-19 variants in other parts of Canada have highlighted the importance of protecting rotational workers living and working inside our borders.
Context for Outbreak Declaration
The NWT defines an outbreak in a closed facility -- which includes remote camps -- as one or more confirmed or probable case(s) of COVID-19 where infection is acquired within the facility.
All commentary is attributable to Dr. Andy Delli Pizzi, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer for the Northwest Territories.
Manager, COVID Communications
Health and Social Services
COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat