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COVID-19 cases climbing in Iqaluit's young population, hotel being used for isolation

·3 min read

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut's chief public health officer says COVID-19 cases are climbing in Iqaluit's younger population and a local hotel is being used as an isolation centre after a shelter closed in the city.

Over the weekend, Iqaluit's only low barrier shelter, where people can stay if they're intoxicated, was shut down after all of its staff went into isolation for COVID-19 — with one staff member testing positive.

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

He said some of those people are isolating for COVID-19 and others are staying there because they have nowhere else to go.

'We're using it as an alternative isolation site for people who either don't have housing or have overcrowded housing," Patterson said.

"They're going there to reduce the risk of them spreading it to other individuals."

Patterson said, as of Monday, 23 of the territory's 85 active cases are in people under the age of 18. There are 83 active cases in Iqaluit and two in Kinngait, all considered to be the variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

As of Tuesday, two cases in Rankin Inlet have 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 medevaced out of the territory with complications related to COVID-19, but further details weren't released for privacy reasons.

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

There were also changes to Nunavut's public health orders for travellers. Anyone living in the same household as someone who has travelled to Nunavut from southern Canada without isolating, has left Iqaluit since April 7 or has left Yellowknife since April 28 must isolate for 14 days.

Although transmission was initially found in essential workplaces in the city, cases are now being linked to household transmission, Patterson said.

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

"We are monitoring the situation and, if the need arises, are prepared to send support resources," Patterson said.

The risk from the mine's outbreak is low because there are no Nunavut residents currently working there and the site can only be accessed by air.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press