TORONTO – The Northwest Territories are grappling with an explosion of COVID-19 cases, as its residents prepare to gather with family and loved ones for Thanksgiving.
As of Friday, the region is reporting 452 active cases, the highest ever since the start of the pandemic. According to the tracker Granthshala.ca, the NWT is reporting an average of 43.1 new cases per day based on the end of seven days.
This works out to 960 new cases per million residents – an infection rate higher than any other jurisdiction in Canada. This is more than every US state except Alaska.
About two-thirds of active cases are in the Yellowknife area, where the region’s largest and capital city is located. The territorial government is urging residents of the Yellowknife area to hold virtual thanksgiving ceremonies and discourage non-essential travel between Yellowknife and other communities.
“This is not a good situation in the NWT, but we are doing our best to control it, and expect it to peak.” Premiere Caroline Cochran said in an interview with Granthshala news channel on Friday.
The region was largely able to keep the virus away until the fourth wave. Between May 22 and August 15, zero cases were reported in the North Western regions. The daily caseload rose sharply from there, reaching 66 on 7 October. In the last two weeks alone, 529 new cases have been reported, representing more than a third of all COVID-19 cases in the region.
“I think we are victims of our own success. As soon as COVID hit, we learned that our health care infrastructure was not up to par,” Cochrane said, noting that its territory was the first jurisdiction in Canada. Apply border controls.
But as restrictions began to lift in August and September, Cochrane says they knew cases were likely to rise.
“It’s been a long year and a half, and the public was exhausted. We have a lot of families that lived in the South and so we knew that once we opened up to allow people to visit, We will be looking at this potential.” he said.
“We didn’t ask for it, but we knew we also had to take care of the mental health of our residents. So, we’re doing the best we can with our outbreak at this point,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane said about 70 percent of COVID-19 patients in hospitals have not been vaccinated, while another 30 percent are vaccinated. After the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in September recommended booster shots for people with compromised immunity, the Northwest Territories began offering a third dose to people over 75.
“We’ve been proactive. We’re now giving a third shot to people 75 and older, and we’ll be looking at that research going forward,” Cochran said.
The Northwest Territories have received oxygen supplies from the federal government as well as support from the military and the Canadian Red Cross. Hospitals in Alberta also continue to treat NWT residents, despite that province’s own challenges with COVID-19.
Cochrane said, “I believe that the federal government will stay there, and I believe in all of Canada’s jurisdictions, all premierships. We are all in this together and will continue to support each other.”