N.W.T. reports 1st case of COVID-19, risk now rated high as borders set to close: officials

The Northwest Territories has reported its first case of COVID-19, according to a press release sent out on Saturday afternoon by the chief public health officer.

The person had travelled to British Columbia and Alberta, according to the release, and then returned home to Yellowknife.

The individual, and their household, self-isolated after the person developed mild symptoms three days after returning.

“The individual’s condition has improved and they are recovering at home,” states the news release.

Those who may have had contact with the person are being contacted to self-isolate immediately, according to the release. 

During a press conference Saturday afternoon, Dr. Kami Kandola, the N.W.T. chief public health officer, said the government found out about the case late Friday night. 

She said the individual was not an international traveller. The person did not show symptoms while on the flight home, and returned in the second week of March, she said.

“We need to remain calm,” said Kandola.

Kandola said the risk of acquiring COVID-19 in the N.W.T. was elevated to high last week. But as of Thursday, the territorial government’s coronavirus disease website listed the risk as low.

Kandola said her department learned the risk had increased to high on Wednesday, and apologized for not updating the website earlier in the week.

Watch the full press conference in Yellowknife at 2 p.m. MT Saturday here:

COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Northwest Territories. Loren McGinnis will host a live broadcast special from Yellowknife from 2-3pm MT 0:00

The release said that the public is being told of the location because it happened in Yellowknife, but should not expect to be notified in smaller communities. The population of the N.W.T. is roughly 44,904 people, according to the NWT Bureau of Statistics’ 2020 numbers.

‘We new this day was coming’: premier

‘We knew this day was coming,” said N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane at the press conference. 

Cochrane said this first case is being “investigated thoroughly.” 

“We want to assure the public that we’re taking all appropriate measures to keep residents and communities of the territory safe.” 

Cochrane said the government will continue “to take strong actions to protect” N.W.T. residents.

Health Minister Diane Thom stressed people need to take Kandola’s advice strictly.

“The threat of COVID-19 poses to our territory is real. The challenges we now face is significant,” said Thom. 

“No option is off the table as we move forward.”

Travel ban announced Friday

Kandola has “mandated an aggressive testing strategy” to identify and prevent the spread of COVID-19 across the territory, states the release. 

As of Saturday at 11 a.m., 299 people have been tested in the territory, according to the N.W.T. Health Department website.

Late Friday evening, the Northwest Territories chief public health officer announced plans to ban most travel into the territory in an effort to stall the arrival of the novel coronavirus. 

Kandola intends to make an order on Saturday that will restrict “all travel” by land, air and port into the territory for non-residents. There will be limited exceptions, says the government, which includes N.W.T. residents and supply chain workers.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms can include: 

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Pneumonia in both lungs (which would be seen on a chest X-ray).

What should I do if I feel sick?

If you are under 50 years old and otherwise healthy, just stay home and take care of yourself. Definitely don’t go to hospital, says Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

The most important thing to do is to call ahead to your health care-provider when possible, whether you are going to see your primary care physician, a walk-in clinic, or an emergency department at a hospital.

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