Nunavut announced nine new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, of which two are in Kinngait and seven are in Iqaluit, bringing the respective case numbers to four in Kinngait and 33 in Iqaluit.
There were also eight recoveries, which means the total case count for the territory is 37.
People are considered recovered from COVID-19 once they've met two criteria: one is that at least 10 days have passed since they developed symptoms or received a positive test, the other is that they have been symptom-free for a minimum of 24 hours.
One of the newer cases identified in Iqaluit has not yet been linked to the previous cases, so contact tracing for that person is a priority for public health, but all others are connected.
At a news conference on Friday, Premier Joe Savikataaq asked everyone in the Qikiqtaaluk region to stay home as much as possible this weekend because, he said, following the restrictions is the most effective way to contain the spread of the virus.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson chimed in to support the Nunavut Quest organizers in their decision to cancel the dog sled race this year.
"I know this pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of many annual and traditional events and activities. This is not easy on any of us, but with the help and work of all Nunavummiut through following public health measures and getting vaccinated, we will get through this," Patterson said.
Public health orders will be changed on Monday so that when bars and restaurants are open across the territory, they will be limited to 50 per cent capacity. In Iqaluit and Kinngait, these establishments will continue to be open for take-out only.
Surveillance testing site in Iqaluit
Iqaluit Public Health is setting up a testing site Friday afternoon at the Cadet Hall to expand its testing capacity.
The new location will allow the team to do more swabs, get tests results faster, and enable lower-risk contacts to be tested.
Patterson asked people not to go to the site for testing unless they have an appointment. Testing will still be scheduled through the COVID-19 hotline.
"If you see people you know in the line, do not assume they have COVID[-19]. Testing is an important tool to track the virus … Recognize that stigma and shame hurt those efforts," Patterson said.
Right now, those going to the site have been identified as lower risk contacts and are attending in groups — for example a workplace — where there may have been COVID-19.
Patterson named three workplaces Friday: the Storehouse Bar and Grill, the Chartroom Lounge and Canadian North.
The number of tests being done there will not over-stretch Iqaluit's testing capacity, but Patterson said if Iqaluit needs help, tests can be sent to Rankin Inlet.
Health minister encourages vaccination
Health Minister Lorne Kusugak spoke up to encourage everyone to get their first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine, and not to listen to rumours.
He acknowledged there were some short-term side effects, but the long-term benefits have been scientifically proven to prevent severe complications from the virus.
In Iqaluit, 6,238 doses of the vaccine have been administered, and 2,545 people have received both doses.
"Vaccination, especially when you're looking at significant numbers that have been vaccinated, it slows down the spread of the virus and it doesn't spread as far, it doesn't infect as many people," Patterson said.
He acknowledged that Nunavut was experiencing the same trend as what has been seen across the country where vaccination is open to everyone over the age of 18 — younger people are less likely to get vaccinated.
Earlier this week, the Nunavut government reported that a second bar in Iqaluit had been identified through contact tracing as a potential exposure location for COVID-19. People who visited the Chartroom Lounge between April 10 and 14 are asked to self-monitor for symptoms and if they develop symptoms, to switch to self-isolating.
If symptoms develop, the government is also asking people to call the COVID-19 hotline. The first bar identified was the Storehouse Bar and Grill.
Almost all of Nunavut's positive cases have been linked to these two bars, or contacts of people who went to the bars. As a result, Patterson says the exposure risks for those outside this chain is low.
Missed the news conference? Watch it here: