Public Service Announcement – Data Sharing Update/Return to School – January 21, 2022

News Type: 
Public Service Announcement

YELLOWKNIFE January 21, 2022 – The Omicron variant continues to cause an increased number of COVID-19 infections across Canada and within the Northwest Territories (NWT). The data shared by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) on the NWT COVID-19 Dashboard is a valuable source of information to help residents make informed decisions about the potential risks within their own communities.

Community level data will be provided on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, effective today, until the current outbreak subsides. Regional level data will continue to be updated Monday to Friday.

With the increased level of reporting there will be some case number changes from day to day. This is because all presumptive cases will be reported as infections. If a presumed infection turns out to not be a case it will be removed from the reporting table.

When the dashboard is updated today there will be a significant decrease in the number of active cases reported. This is because of the changes made to isolation requirements. The reporting criteria has been updated to reflect that those who test positive and are fully immunized are considered resolved seven (7) days after a positive test, onset of symptoms or diagnosis. They are considered resolved because their likelihood of spreading an infection is very small. These individuals are still required to wear a mask in all public spaces for an additional three (3) days but are no longer required to isolate.  

Modelling

The OCPHO has been using mathematical modeling to provide an understanding of the expected behaviour of COVID-19 in the NWT. The modelling predictions will be shared on the GNWT COVID-19 website next week to provide residents with additional information about when COVID-19 infections are expected to peak within the NWT. The model forecasts that the NWT continues to see more than 100 new infections a day until mid-February. For additional information about mathematical modelling please visit the Government of Canada website.

The actual reported data indicated that the peak of this Omicron wave may have already passed mid-January in the NWT. The charts attached at the end of the document outline the data on daily new cases since December 15 broken down by age and region.

Return to School

The Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) recommends that students return to in class learning in all communities with the exception of Inuvik and Fort Smith where there has been a new onset of community transmission. It has been reported that the Omicron variant is different from previous COVID-19 infections. Generally speaking individuals infected with the virus experience a less severe illness. Less severe outcomes from infection are even more likely in younger, vaccinated populations.

Availability of Vaccine Program

At this time all children ages five and older are eligible for vaccine and second doses are now available for those who received their first dose seven to eight weeks ago. The vaccine continues to a very safe and effective protection from getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness if a breakthrough infection occurs.

Strong COVID-19 Safety Measures in Schools

While the Chief Public Health Officer has observed introductions of COVID-19 infections, where students have attended school while infectious, the protective measures in place have prevented transmission from student to student in the classroom settings. This observation provides confidence that the measures and protocols in place, including classroom bubbles, mandatory masking, home-based symptom screening and other measures are working to minimize the risk to students.

Risk of Harm

There are detrimental effects to the mental health and social development of children through the closure of in-person learning. This risk to children’s mental well-being outweighs the risks of a COVID-19 infection given the likelihood of a less severe illness from the Omicron variant.

Public Health Management Plan of COVID-19 in School Settings

Moving forward the goal is to maximize classroom learning for students. The OCPHO developed a Public Health Management Plan that will guide the response to the introduction and potential transmission of COVID-19 in classrooms. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment and NWT Superintendents continue to follow OCPHO guidance and Public Health’s Management Plan. These plans are designed minimize the risk of school introductions and transmissions while being the least disruptive to keeping students in classrooms across the NWT.

Please visit our website for more information about how introductions in classrooms will be managed and handled.

Attribution

All commentary is attributable to Dr. Kami Kandola, Chief Public Health Officer for the Northwest Territories.

Media Contact

Richard Makohoniuk
Manager, COVID Communications
COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat
Department of Health and Social Services
Government of the Northwest Territories
richard_makohoniuk@gov.nt.ca
 

Count of NWT cases by age group from December 15, 2021 – January 21, 2022.

The symptom onset or test date is the date of the first reported symptoms, or the date of the reported test.

Count of NWT cases by health region from December 15, 2021 – January 21, 2022.