Security-guard tests positive for COVID-19 at isolation site for Nunavut residents in Ottawa

Officials say they are establishing risk, beginning contact tracing

Nunavut health officials are alerting the public after a security guard at an Ottawa isolation facility tested positive for COVID-19.

There were 24 people who the guard was potentially in contact with, and all are back in Nunavut. There are still no cases of COVID-19 in the territory.

“We are discussing with Ottawa Public Health whether this positive case will require those scheduled to return home in the coming days to remain in isolation until they can be cleared as contacts and confirmed COVID-free,” said Health Minister George Hickes in a release. “We will make all decisions based on the best medical advice and take the necessary steps to keep everyone safe.”

Among other public health measures, most Nunavut residents also have to spend 14 days in an isolation facility in the south before returning home.

Nunavut authorities say they are working with Ottawa Public Health to assess the risk and begin contract tracing. They say the 24 individuals’ risk of exposure was low and limited to Aug. 18 and 19.

All the isolation travelers in Ottawa are bound for Baffin Island.

Schools on the island started opening Aug. 13. The latest opens their doors on Sept. 4.

Considering the time period, it is possible that some of the 24 potentially exposed people are teachers.

Two school districts on Baffin Island were closed Thursday in response to the announcement, Qikiqtarjuaq and Arctic Bay.

The 24 individuals are being asked to self-monitor for symptoms.

APTN News asked Nunavut’s top doctor if a teacher would be allowed to teach if they were one of the 24 people who were in contact with the guard.

Chief Public Health Officer Michael Patterson said unless they start showing symptoms, they would be allowed to teach.

“We got to keep in mind that this is low risk. The odds are that most, if not all, these people will not develop COVID-19, and if we shut down schools and work places for every incident like this, moving forward, then we are going to do serious harm to our children, and those harms, especially for children, outweigh the benefit from being so protective,” said Patterson at a press conference.

When Nunavut schools closed in March, many individual school districts had already closed their doors before the chief public health officer did so officially.

Video Journalist / Iqaluit

Kent has been APTN’s Nunavut correspondent since 2007. In that time he has closely covered Inuit issues, including devolution and the controversial Nutrition North food subsidy. He has also worked for CKIQ-FM in Iqaluit and as a reporter for Nunavut News North.