Canada’s Northwest Territories declares COVID-19 outbreak among Yellowknife’s homeless population

Public health officials in Canada’s Northwest Territories have declared an outbreak among Yellowknife’s homeless population after it found 19 people who have used shelters since mid-August have contracted COVID-19. (NIAID Integrated Research Facility/Reuters)

19 people who have accessed shelters since mid-August have had COVID-19

Northwest Territories declared an outbreak among Yellowknife’s homeless population Tuesday after confirming that since mid-August, 19 people who have accessed shelters have contracted COVID-19.

As a result, the territory has started to provide testing and vaccinations at shelter locations, and finding alternative isolation facilities for individuals that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 along with their contacts.

It’s also screening for symptoms in shelters, and mandating wearing masks and personal protective equipment for onsite health-care workers.

The N.W.T.’s office of the chief public health officer (OCPHO) said it’s aware of 10 health care and shelter support workers who have also tested positive for COVID-19.

“People that are underhoused and utilize shelters have a much higher risk of COVID-19 exposures,” read a statement issued by the OCPHO.

“This is a strongly connected community that provides support to one another in many ways and often uses multiple facilities to find shelter on a day to day basis. COVID-19 infections are now impacting one of the Northwest Territories’ most at risk populations,” the statement reads.

The OCPHO said it identified multiple exposure sites where people likely acquired the virus, including the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Camp, the Salvation Army, the Sobering Centre and isolation centres.

It said any public location in Yellowknife should be considered a possible exposure site.

Health officials are scheduled to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation in the territory Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. MT. CBC News will carry it live on its website, on radio and on CBC North’s Facebook page.

Territorial case count decreases

The OCPHO reported 114 active COVID-19 cases in the territory Tuesday, a drop from the 140 it reported last Friday.

It said there were 24 new cases reported since Friday.

Yellowknife is the region with the most active cases, at 64. The number in the Sahtu region continued to decline over the weekend. As of Tuesday night, it stood at 46, compared to 63 on Friday.

There are 25 active cases in Fort Good Hope, nine in Norman Wells, six in Deline, six in Tulita, and none in Colville Lake.

In other areas of the territory, the OCPHO is reporting one case in Gameti, one in Hay River and K’atl’odeeche First Nation, and two in Fort Providence.

It said 16 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the territory since the start of the pandemic, 12 of them because of the current situation, and that six of them were treated in the intensive care unit.

“Ninety per cent of the first 10 hospitalizations were non-fully vaccinated,” read the statement.

Related stories from around the North: 

CanadaHealth board looking to delay Quebec vaccine passport for Nunavik youth until mid fall, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Greenland announces COVID-19 reopening plan, Eye on the Arctic

IcelandIceland sets up committee to examine COVID-19 response, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sweden extends COVID-19 test recommendations for travellers from abroad, Radio Sweden

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