COVID-19 circumstances climbing in Iqaluit’s younger inhabitants, lodge getting used for isolation

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IQALUIT, Nunavut – Nunavut’s chief public health officer says COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Iqaluit’s younger population and a local hotel is being used as an isolation center after an animal shelter in the city closes.

IQALUIT, Nunavut – Nunavut’s chief public health officer says COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Iqaluit’s younger population and a local hotel is being used as an isolation center after an animal shelter in the city closes.

Over the weekend, Iqaluit’s only low-barrier shelter where people can stay when they’re drunk was closed after all employees were isolated for COVID-19 – one employee tested positive.

Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, said 31 people are staying at the Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Center, a hotel in Iqaluit.

He said some of these people are isolating for COVID-19 and others are staying there because they don’t have anywhere else to go.

“We’re using it as an alternative isolation point for people who either have no homes or who have overcrowded homes,” said Patterson.

“They go there to reduce the risk of passing it on to other people.”

Patterson said as of Monday, 23 of the territory’s 85 active cases had occurred in those under the age of 18. There are 83 active cases in Iqaluit and two in Kinngait, all of which are considered to be the first variant identified in the UK.

As of Tuesday, two cases in Rankin Inlet had recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 50 since the first case was declared in Iqaluit on April 14.

A second person had to be evicted from the area with complications related to COVID-19, but further details have not been released due to privacy concerns.

Patterson said there are also eight cases of COVID-19 at Iqaluit’s Baffin Correctional Center, but health officials still don’t know how the virus got into the facility.

There were also changes to Nunavut’s public health regulations for travelers. Anyone living in the same household as someone who traveled to Nunavut from southern Canada without isolation, left Iqaluit since April 7, or left Yellowknife since April 28 will be required to isolate for 14 days.

Although the transmission was originally found in key workplaces around the city, cases are now being linked to household transmission, Patterson said.

There is also a COVID-19 outbreak at Baffinland’s Mary River mine near Pond Inlet on north Baffin Island. There are currently 12 cases at the mine, some of which are the B117 variant first identified in the UK and at least one is the B1617 variant first identified in India, Patterson said.

“We are monitoring the situation and ready to send support resources if necessary,” said Patterson.

The risk of the mine erupting is low as there are currently no Nunavut residents working there and the site is only accessible by air.

This Canadian press report was first published on May 4, 2021.

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This story was produced with financial support from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emma Tranter, the Canadian press

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