Public Service Announcement – January 13, 2022

News Type: 
Public Service Announcement

YELLOWKNIFE January 13, 2022 – The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) is seeing an increase in the number of new daily COVID-19 infections in the Northwest Territories (NWT). Over the past week the average number of daily new cases has remained above 120/day. The OCPHO is changing the types of public exposure notifications that will be published on the GNWT’s COVID-19 website.

The OCPHO has developed an online tool to provide guidance on self-isolation, isolation and testing requirements. If you have questions about what is required please use the self-assessment tool available on our website. If you have additional questions after using the online assessment tool ProtectNWT is available by phone at 8-1-1 or email at ProtectNWT@gov.nt.ca.

Flight Notifications

Air Canada and WestJet flights into Yellowknife will no longer be identified on the GNWT’s COVID-19 website as exposure sites. Travellers should consider that they could be exposed to COVID-19 on these flights and “Know What to do For 72”.

Please use the rapid antigen tests distributed at the Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik and Yellowknife airports to test yourself within 24 hours of your arrival and again 72 hours after your return. If you test positive using an at home rapid antigen test please call ProtectNWT at 8-1-1 to report your positive result and get advice on your next steps.

Criteria for Public Exposure Notification

The OCPHO will continue to post exposure notifications for the situations outlined below.

  • Flights originating from outside the NWT and landing in any NWT community, other than Yellowknife.
  • Flights internal to the NWT between communities. 
  • Mass exposures affecting a significant number of individuals where it is not possible to reach individuals involved directly.
  • New exposure sites not previously identified.
  • Workplaces, other than those listed above, where public exposures may have occurred.
  • Workplace outbreaks.
  • Outbreaks that appear connected to a singular business.

Given the number community-level active infections individuals that are frequenting crowded public spaces, large stores or travelling on airplanes should consider the possibility of having been exposed to COVID-19 and be diligent in their continued self-monitoring for signs and symptoms, even mild ones, on an ongoing basis. Immediately isolate if you are showing any signs or symptoms of a COVID-19 infection.

Please note that the OCPHO will no longer be updating the public exposures page on the GNWT’s COVID-19 website for the locations below.

  • Big box stores in Yellowknife (Walmart, Your Independent Grocers, COOP, Staples, etc)
  • Grocery stores and supermarkets in communities experiencing community spread.
    At the moment these include: Aklavik, Behchokǫ̀, Délı̨nę, Fort Providence, Hay River, Whatì, and Yellowknife including Ndilǫ and Dettah.
  • Whenever more than eight (8) days has passed since the point of exposure.
  • An exposure of 15 minutes of less.

Omicron Cases in the NWT

The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly within the NWT.
From March 2020, with the announcement of the first COVID-19 infection in the NWT, it took 18 months to reach 1,000 cases in the NWT. From September 25, 2021 it took 1.5 months to reach 2,000 cases in the NWT. It took a further 2 months to reach 3,000 cumulative cases in the NWT. As reported on the GNWT COVID-19 Dashboard yesterday, the number of new infections in the last seven (7) days is 855.

Omicron is much more contagious over previous variants and the measures the CPHO has introduced are intended to slow the spread so that if severe infections occur they do not occur simultaneously but rather occur slowly over an extended period of time. This will ensure the capacity of our health system is maintained.

The observations made by the CPHO of the impacts of Omicron both here and in other parts of the world, show that Omicron infections may result in a less severe illness. It is likely that everyone in your household will recover safely at home. However, not every infection will result in a less severe illness; some individuals remain at risk of developing a more severe illness. These include the very young, the elderly, pregnant individuals, the unvaccinated and those with weak immune systems and other high risk chronic conditions including severe obesity. Quickly increasing case counts can impact health service capacity for those who need it for COVID-19 infections or other reasons.

If you experience a severe illness including difficulty breathing or other health emergency, contact 9-1-1 to arrange for medical assistance. 

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