N.W.T. chief public health officer 'optimistic' she can lift containment order in Fort Liard

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The N.W.T. chief public health officer says she's "optimistic" she will not need to extend the containment order that was put in place on Jan. 16 in Fort Liard, and is set to expire on Saturday night.

Dr. Kami Kandola made the comment during a regular government update on COVID-19 in the territory on Wednesday afternoon. Kandola was joined by Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, the territory's medical director, in the virtual news conference.

The hamlet, which has a population of about 500 residents and is 780 kilometres southwest of Yellowknife, recently saw a cluster of COVID-19 cases. Kandola and Pegg said the response from residents and health workers are what helped keep the initial outbreak under control. There are now just five active cases in the community.

"We have seen extraordinary perseverance from residents in Fort Liard," Kandola said.

Meanwhile, the case with no known source in Yellowknife announced on Jan. 15 remains a mystery, Kandola said. However, there has been no change in the waste water signal and there has been no indication of widespread COVID-19, she added.

If there continues to be no other indications in the next week, the territory will consider it "a bullet dodged," Kandola said.

The N.W.T. did confirm one new case on Wednesday — an out-of-territory worker tested positive for COVID-19 at a Gahcho Kué mine satellite winter road work camp.

Missed the news conference? Watch it here:

All 33 communities receive vaccine clinic visit

Kandola also said there are policies in place that will make it difficult for non-residents to attempt to budge the vaccination lineup, like in the case of the Vancouver couple who are accused of flouting COVID-19 rules in order to obtain doses of the Moderna vaccine in Beaver Creek, Yukon, last week.

Those policies include having to present and execute an isolation plan upon arrival in the territory, and having to show a valid N.W.T. health-care card when getting the vaccine.

The territory has administered 9,471 first doses of the Moderna vaccine in less than a month, and across all 33 communities, Kandola said. People who rang in the new year with their first dose will get their second doses in the next few weeks, making them fully immunized.

I haven't seen a single case of flu. - Dr. Kami Kandola, CPHO

The government announced last week that it would open 900 more spots at COVID-19 vaccine clinics next week in Yellowknife to inoculate the city's priority population — people aged 60 years and older. It then opened up additional appointments beginning Tuesday and made them available through Saturday. However those are now completely booked too, according to an update on Wednesday.

The territory says it's looking to further expand those appointments and will make an announcement if they do.

As of Jan. 26, there were a total of 31 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic in the territory, five of which were active and 26 of which are listed as recovered on the territorial government website.

Dr. Pegg says she's been involved in numerous vaccination campaigns before, and she can attest that this one is going well. She said people in first priority groups who, for whatever reason, didn't get a vaccine in the first round, will get another chance. The full vaccine allotment has not yet arrived, she said, as it is being delivered in waves.

"More doses are coming," Pegg said. In the meantime, keep following health restrictions, she added.

No cases of the flu

There have been no reported cases of flu in the N.W.T., and low numbers across Canada, Kandola said.

Normally there would have been flu activity in October, which then often peaks in December, she said, with typically hundreds of cases a year.

"I think this is the first [time] in my 17 years up here I haven't seen a single case of flu," she said.

But, Kandola added, the territory will continue to monitor the situation until the flu season is over.