The N.W.T.'s acting chief public health officer says there's a "sense of urgency" for residents to get vaccinated before a possible spike of COVID-19 cases in the fall.
Dr. Andre Corriveau says it's extremely important for people to get vaccinated so the territory can be as prepared as possible going into the colder months.
"We anticipate that there will be an increase in cases with the Delta variant," he said.
"We're trying to use that window of time that we have while things are still relatively quiet, to boost up our immunization rates."
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, told reporters Friday a long-range pandemic forecast suggests the country is "at the start of the Delta-driven fourth wave," with cases on the rise in provinces across the country.
It's not clear how a possible Delta-driven wave will impact the N.W.T., according to Corriveau, but it's something the Health and Social Services department is watching closely.
"I don't have a crystal ball to say exactly whether [cases] will increase a little bit ... but we're prepared to watch and take action if need be," he said.
As of Friday, the N.W.T. had one active case of COVID-19 in a non-resident worker at Ekati mine. The territory hasn't seen a case involving a resident since the end of the N.J. MacPherson school cluster in Yellowknife in early June.
How things are going right now
Corriveau said the territory is still on track with its response to COVID-19.
As of Friday afternoon, 76 per cent of residents 18 and up had at least one dose of a vaccine, with 71 per cent fully immunized.
"We're trying to maintain and accelerate that momentum," Corriveau said.
To do that, Dr. Corriveau said he and other healthcare staff from the territory are visiting different communities to answer any questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.
The 75 per cent mark for herd immunity in the general population is what the N.W.T. is aiming for, Corriveau said. Right now, just 59 per cent of the total population is fully vaccinated, and 64 per cent is partially vaccinated. If that threshold is met, it could mean more restrictions come down, allowing for things such as leisure travel.
If needed, the territory won't hesitate to put further restrictions back in place, Corriveau continued, but stressed that's not necessary right now.
'Our system is more fragile than Alberta'
Dr. Corriveau's comments come as Alberta officials announced they will be lifting all COVID-19 restrictions by mid-August, despite an upswing of cases in the province.
One hundred and eighty-seven new cases were reported in Alberta on Friday to bring the total active cases to 1,655, up from 1,334 the previous day.
"Any time the rate of infection increases in that province, it has a direct impact on us," Corriveau said, explaining how many in the territory travel back and forth.
"Our system is a lot more fragile than it can be in Alberta," he continued.
"We don't have ICU capacity here, and you know a lot of our healthcare centres are at minimum staff, especially during the summer months."
N.W.T. resident Paige Scott recently returned to Yellowknife after going to Edmonton for a last-minute medical emergency.
When coming back into the territory, she noticed officials at the Yellowknife airport were not thoroughly looking over documents like self-isolation plans.
She said the territory needs to be more careful, now that cases are starting to rise again south of the border.
"ProtectNWT is just saying, 'Oh yeah, you're fine' but what if, a few days later, they're not fine and there was no real follow up?" Scott said. "That's what concerns me."
Corriveau said officials will continue to watch what happens in Alberta and the rest of Canada to figure out when or whether the territory will be able to further reduce restrictions.