Two Yellowknife sports facilities are set to be used in the effort to contain the spread COVID-19 in the city.
The Yellowknife Ski Club will be used as an isolation centre while the Yellowknife Community Arena will act as a shelter.
It's expected both facilities will be operational for these purposes later this week, Municipal and Community Affairs Minister Shane Thompson said at a COVID-19 news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Thompson said he wasn't able to provide details yet about when exactly operations will begin, or how many people will be able to use either facility.
The announcement was made as Yellowknife experiences community transmission of COVID-19 and its greatest volume of active cases since the pandemic started.
On Monday, the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer reported 117 active cases in Yellowknife, as well as 22 in Behchokǫ̀ and 14 in Whatì.
The number of cases has been climbing in Yellowknife over the past two weeks, and especially since Sept. 7, when an outbreak was reported in the city's community that experiences homelessness.
Ask for support
Thompson said the N.W.T. government has asked Public Safety Canada for support to help maintain shelter operations in Yellowknife.
The territorial government requested 20 non-clinical personnel, such as emergency care workers and responders, to take on general support roles.
"We have not yet received a response but we expect a positive one soon," said Thompson.
Miss the news conference? Watch it here
To help limit the spread, Dr. Kami Kandola, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer, issued a public health order Monday closing all schools in Yellowknife, Ndilo and Dettah.
She said if schools had remained open with the current level of community transmission in the city, COVID-19 would have found its way into the schools and led to some outbreaks.
"The most prudent thing was to close the schools, even for nine days. I'd rather close the schools and get a handle on this problem, get a decrease in activity, and then we can open the schools safely," said Kandola.
She said the rapid rise in the number of cases in the Yellowknife area means more protective measures are required to contain the spread of the virus.
"In Behchokǫ and Whatì, these measures were containment orders," Kandola said, adding that she doesn't expect to issue a containment order for Yellowknife at this point in time and hopes the measures in place — limits on gatherings in Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilo, along with the school closures — are enough to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Health services affected
Health services in Yellowknife were affected by the school closure Tuesday. Services were significantly reduced Tuesday as health officials assessed the impacts of the closures on staff who have school-aged children.
Kim Riles, CEO of the Northwest Territories Health and Social Service Authority, said an announcement will be made later on Tuesday about health services levels in the days to come, with schools set to stay closed until at least Sept. 24.
The N.W.T. is expected to provide an update on the number of cases across the territory late Tuesday afternoon.