Mask mandate in Yellowknife, Ndilo, Dettah and Behchokǫ̀ set to lift Monday

·4 min read
Terriorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, left, and N.W.T. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola answered questions live on The Trailbreaker Thursday. (CBC - image credit)
Terriorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, left, and N.W.T. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola answered questions live on The Trailbreaker Thursday. (CBC - image credit)

Northwest Territories health officials says the mask mandate in Yellowknife, Ndilo, Dettah and Behchokǫ̀ is set to lift on Monday, after school's out for the summer, and that they're working on making it more convenient for people in communities to get doses of the vaccine.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola and Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, the territory's medical director, fielded questions live during The Trailbreaker's bi-weekly COVID-19 call-in show on CBC Radio One at 7:10 a.m. MT.

They addressed questions about vaccine uptake, travel restrictions and more.

Missed the show? You can watch it here.

Why do we still need masks in small communities with no confirmed cases?

Kandola said the mask mandate in Yellowknife, Ndilo, Dettah and Behchokǫ̀ is set to lift on Monday, after school's out for the summer.

After that, she said, masks won't be mandatory in N.W.T., and it will be up to each person to decide whether they feel safer wearing a mask inside.

There still could be scenarios in which masks are recommended, Kandola added, such as in large crowds indoors.

When will travel restrictions lift for non-N.W.T. residents?

Kandola said the same self-isolation requirements apply to residents and non-residents, meaning people who are fully vaccinated don't have to self-isolate upon entry into the Northwest Territories.

Self-isolation is still required for people coming in who aren't fully vaccinated.

Non-residents have always been allowed to visit N.W.T. for work, study or to visit loved ones (though an exemption is required; read more about how to apply for an exemption to bring in visiting family here).

Kandola said they're aiming to lift the travel order for tourists who want to visit communities in the fall, when around 75 per cent of adults in Canada are fully vaccinated, and when more people in the Northwest Territories have had both their shots.

How are you reaching out to people to get their second dose of the vaccine?

Pegg said some people simply aren't eligible for their second dose yet. Others however, may be put off by the potentially worse side effects some have reported from the second shot.

She said health providers are working to get out information about how to mitigate side effects and make the post-vaccine experience less uncomfortable.

Another issue is convenience, said Pegg. "People came for first dose and then life gets in the way."

She said health officials are working to bring vaccine storage units to communities, but it's unclear when that will happen. They're still waiting for cold storage units to arrive, and after that, they'll have to train staff on how to use and maintain them.

"We're looking at weeks, to a small number of months, for the delivery and rollout of those," said Pegg.

How are you promoting the vaccine to people who may be hesitant?

Kandola said she hopes that the relaxing of travel public health restrictions, like the mandatory self-isolation period, for fully-vaccinated residents, will spur more people to get the vaccine.

She also said the marketing team is trying to understand why people are hesitant, and is targeting younger people right now.

Younger people are reporting that vaccine clinic times don't fit their schedules, said Kandola, and that evening clinics or pop-up clinics at big outdoor events might make help with that.

"This last leg of the vaccine campaign requires a completely different strategy," she said. " At the beginning we were targeting the senior cohort ... we now have to flip it over," she said, referring to the young adult group.

She said nearly 100 per cent of people 70 and over have been vaccinated.

When will restrictions lift on small businesses?

Kandola said "we're almost there," on increasing indoor capacity limits.

"We're waiting for a 1 per cent increase in vaccine coverage for those who are fully immunized," she said.

Do I need a vaccine passport?

Pegg said the N.W.T. isn't issuing vaccine passports.

Residents who want proof of their vaccination can get a print-out of their electronic medical record by requesting it through the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services website.

A record of vaccination isn't necessary for fully-vaccinated residents returning to the territory, as officials can "validate that internally," said Pegg.

"If you want proof to travel elsewhere, we're waiting on the federal government about what a vaccine record would look like," she said.

Pegg said the territory isn't issuing vaccine passports because developing one would take a lot of effort, and would likely have to be redone once the federal government, or an international body came up with its own.

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