Behchokǫ̀ schools close, more than 1,000 close contacts linked to Yellowknife school outbreak

·2 min read
N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife. Territorial health officials ordered all schools in Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah to close until further notice on Sunday following a COVID-19 outbreak at the school.  ( Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)
N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife. Territorial health officials ordered all schools in Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah to close until further notice on Sunday following a COVID-19 outbreak at the school. ( Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)

UPDATE, May 4, 2021, 3:21 p.m.: The Northwest Territories government added more COVID-19 public exposure noticed on May 4. The latest exposure list can be found here. To read more about who is and isn't considered a contact to the cases, check out this Facebook post by Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland here.

Northwest Territories Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola says more than 1,000 people have been identified as close contacts in connection to the outbreak in N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife.

As of midday Monday, there were 14 people with confirmed COVID-19 cases and another six probable cases. That's up from eight confirmed cases announced Monday morning and six announced on Sunday.

Testing is ongoing and the office of the chief public health officer is awaiting lab confirmation, Kandola said in a news release.

There are new restrictions in Behchokǫ̀ and the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency has closed the schools.

"The closures are out of concern that student and staff from Behchokǫ̀ had attended group events in Yellowknife over the weekend, such as a multi-school soccer tournament," Kandola said.

On Saturday, a two-week closure of N.J. Macpherson School was announced by officials. On Sunday all schools in Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah were ordered closed.

There is now mandatory masking in public buildings in Behchokǫ̀ ̀and all organized activities, such as sports groups for those under 18, have been cancelled. Masks are already mandatory in public buildings in Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah.

On Monday afternoon, the city also said people under 18 years old are not allowed to go to city facilities at this time and that anyone visiting a city facility will need to bring government-issued identification, which will be required upon entry.

Public health is actively reaching out to inform those identified as close contacts, the release says. There are also multiple exposure locations in Yellowknife.

"Please pay close attention to the required actions if you or any of your household members were at the following locations during the following times," Kandola said in the release.

The exposure notices are as listed below:

The territory isn't considering it a community-wide outbreak yet, the release says, as it is still investigating "other transmission chains." All of the confirmed and probable cases are so far connected to one large cluster, Kandola said in the release, "linked by time, location and common exposures."

Kandola says non-essential travel in and out of Yellowknife, Dettah, Ndilǫ and Behchokǫ̀ should be suspended or deferred until further notice.

She says people should still attend their necessary medical appointments in Yellowknife, and working from home is highly encouraged.