Top doctor 'cautiously optimistic' outbreak at N.W.T.'s Gahcho Kué mine has stabilized

·3 min read

The N.W.T.'s chief public health officer is "cautiously optimistic" the COVID-19 outbreak at Gahcho Kué mine has stabilized.

Dr. Kami Kandola said during the territory's weekly COVID-19 news conference that her office is working closely with DeBeers, the owner of the mine, to manage the outbreak, which she declared on Feb. 3 after two cases were reported.

The Gahcho Kué diamond mine suspended all operations after four more workers tested presumptively positive last weekend. Those cases were confirmed positive this morning.

She said all 330 workers at the mine have been tested.

Kandola said her office and DeBeers are working on a plan to safely transport about 130 of the 330 employees and contractors back to their home provinces. They're also working on getting about 70 workers to safely isolate in the territory.

She said 130 people will remain at the mine "for care and maintenance."

Kandola said given the size of the mine, she thinks the remaining employees can work safely to maintain it "but we are requiring rigorous testing and follow up of the people at that mine site."

She added that N.W.T.-based workers from the mine who are isolating in Yellowknife will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine once they've completed their 14-day isolation.

She said her office continues to monitor the other outbreak in the territory, at the Gahcho Kué work site, about 40 kilometres away from the mine, where two people recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Kandola said there is no risk to N.W.T. communities from either of these outbreaks.

Submitted by De Beers Group
Submitted by De Beers Group

Moderna doses

To date, Kandola said the territory has administered 12,833 first doses of the vaccines across all 33 of its communities. It has also, as of this morning, administered 299 second doses of the vaccine to residents and staff in long-term care homes.

The territory announced this morning that it will be offering second doses to people in 11 remote communities as well as first doses to people in those communities that haven't received it yet.

"Communities that have already received their first dose of the vaccine can expect their second dose to arrive 28 to 42 days after their first dose," said Kandola.

"The GNWT will continue to deliver second doses to priority populations closer to the 42-day mark to maximize vaccine supply."

The territory's medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, who also spoke on Wednesday, said that while they don't know how many fewer Moderna vaccines the N.W.T. will receive in its fourth shipment later this month, she is confident it will be able to administer vaccines to everyone who is eligible and wants it at the clinics scheduled.

Pegg said the territory expects to hear from the federal government soon about the number of vaccines it will receive.

Yellowknife vaccination clinics

Pegg said the 500 appointments N.W.T. public health authorities have opened up in Yellowknife for people in priority groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are almost full.

The department expanded priority groups for the Yellowknife clinic, which begins Thursday and runs until Feb. 13. Residents who are at least 18 years old can book appointments on a first-come, first-served basis, if they have certain medical conditions.

Pegg said the few remaining openings for the clinics are going fast.

Missed Wednesday's update? Watch it here:

Vaccine hesitancy

Kandola said she knows there's still people who are hesitant to get the vaccine.

"Vaccination is the best evidence-based way to maximize your immunity to this disease, without risking complications," she said.

The vaccine was more than 92 per cent effective in clinical trials, she said.

Kandola said as soon as second doses are available to priority groups, those that are in the group "should book an appointment."