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Feds send nurses to Nunavut after territory reports another COVID-19 death

The federal government is providing Nunavut with three nurses and nine contact tracers to help handle the wave of COVID-19 that is spreading across the territory.

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok announced the federal aid Tuesday during a live COVID-19 update.

Akeeagok also announced another Nunavut resident has died from COVID-19.

“My thoughts are with the family and the community,” he said.

It is the first death in the territory related to the wave of the Omicron variant, Akeeagok said.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said he would not be immediately releasing details about the death, out of respect for the person’s family.

“Right now, we’re not going to discuss anything about it, simply because it hasn’t been 24 hours since this happened. So we’re going to let the family grieve and deal with it, and we’ll discuss further details on Thursday,” Patterson said.

Missed the update? Watch it here:

Embassy West elders recover

Health Minister John Main said all of the elders who were diagnosed with COVID-19 at the Embassy West seniors living facility in Ottawa have recovered.

Last week, Main said eight of the roughly 40 Nunavut elders who reside in that facility had tested positive.

As of Monday, there were four Nunavut essential caregivers at the facility as well as two family members helping to care for the elders. Main said another caregiver is arriving this week.

Nunavut elders who tested positive for COVID-19 while at the Embassy West seniors living facility in Ottawa have all recovered, says Nunavut Health Minister John Main. (CBC)

Main also said there have been no more positive cases among staff at the Andy Aulatjut elders care centre in Arviat, and no elders there have tested positive. The Health Department has sent more personal protective equipment to that facility.

Two staff members have now tested positive at the Gjoa Haven Continuing Care Centre.

“So far there, none of the nine elders at the centre have tested positive [or] shown signs of symptoms,” Main said Tuesday.

Federal help

Main said he can’t say exactly where the three nurses from the federal government will be going within Nunavut, but the Health Department is working with the federal government to decide where to send them.

“There’s a bad need for additional nurses in many communities in Nunavut, so they’ll be deployed to fill some of the gaps that exist,” he said.

Main said he can’t say which communities need the nursing staff the most, but pointed to the number of health centres in the territory that are only offering emergency services as a demonstration of the need for staff.

Last week, Main said staffing shortages mean there are 10 Nunavut communities whose health centres are only providing emergency services.

The contact tracers will be working from outside the territory.

Nunavut has been asking for federal aid since early January. Main and Akeeagok both said they were grateful for the federal support, though they acknowledged they haven’t received all the help they had requested.

Akeeagok said he looks forward to a conversation with Bill Blair, the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, about potential federal support to address areas such as sanitation in nursing stations and hospitals.

Latest numbers

The territory now has 177 active cases of COVID-19 in 17 communities.

Nunavut reported 177 active cases of COVID-19 and one death on Jan. 18. (Government of Nunavut)

Patterson said the case counts in Nunavut are higher than the reported numbers.

“Like every other jurisdiction, it’s hard to accurately estimate the magnitude of the difference,” he said.

He said health officials can compare the number of tests and the number of households affected from week to week to get an idea of whether the situation is improving or not.

“That will vary from community to community.”

Health Minister John Main said earlier this month the government expects COVID-19 to spread to all Nunavut communities.

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