Further waste water testing shows COVID-19 signal 'steadily falling,' N.W.T. top doctor says

·3 min read

The COVID-19 signal found in wastewater in Yellowknife announced last week is "steadily falling," according to the Northwest Territories' top doctor.

Dr. Kami Kandola, the chief public health officer, made the comments during a news briefing Wednesday afternoon about COVID-19 in the territory.

Last week, the government of Northwest Territories said the wastewater COVID-19 surveillance program signaled undetected cases of COVID-19 in Yellowknife.

Those samples were analyzed in Yellowknife from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4.

Kandola said since Dec. 9, the territory received two new waste water results. She said the falling signal is "good evidence" that there has been no further cases.

However, as the holidays approach, Kandola said it's increasingly important that people follow the health restrictions in place.

"We need to rely on each other more than ever," she said, adding that includes wearing a mask in public spaces, maintaining small crowds and large spaces and washing hands frequently.

She said people should stay home at first signs of sickness and call their local health centre to arrange for testing.

However, it shouldn't be a surprise if more cases come into the territory, with the growing number of cases across the country and a surge expected over the holidays, she said.

"We will get cases of COVID," Kandola said.

She urged residents again to avoid travelling unless necessary.

"The choice is yours," she said. "Do you really need to do that non-essential trip now … Can you wait a little while longer."

Vaccine logistics

On Friday, the territory's Health Minister Julie Green said the N.W.T. expects to receive around 51,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine between January and March of 2021. That's enough to distribute to 75 per cent of the territory's residents aged 18 and older.

Then on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the territories are scheduled to receive doses of the vaccine "coming weeks," pending Health Canada approval — much sooner than initially expected.

Kandola said one of the logistics when it comes to distribution is ensuring the territory has portable freezers for when mobile teams bring in the vaccine doses to smaller communities.

"This is all being worked out as we speak. This is part of their logistics preparation before people roll out and deliver the vaccines," Kandola said.

Other logistics include ensuring the flight and vaccination crews have accommodations in the communities if they have to stay overnight. She said the territory is also going to be working on a rollout plan and ensuring health care staff have the necessary training.

The territory is working as hard as it can to have the vaccination rollout plan finished up "in the next week or so" Kandola said, but added a hard timeline for a completion date is not certain.

Among the first people to receive the vaccine will be those in highest risk groups such as elders. People with chronic health problems and front-line workers including in health care, are also considered in high risk. Other communities that are vulnerable are fly-in hamlets like Paulatuk and Sachs Harbour.

In any case, Kandola said until there is an increase in vaccination levels and a decrease in the risk of infection — not just in the territory, but across the country — public health orders will remain in place.

Territory-wide, there have been a total of 22 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, with 15 people listed as recovered on the government's website.