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Hundreds should be getting tested: CPHO on wastewater traces

Hundreds of people should be getting tested after traces of COVID-19 were found by the wastewater samplers in Yellowknife.

This is according to estimates from Dr. Kami Kandola, NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer, because of COVID-19 traces that were found by the city’s wastewater sampling. The GNWT was unable to provide more exact numbers during a press conference on Wednesday.

This means there could be undetected cases of COVID-19. Kandola said the territory is casting a wide net with its wastewater sampling in the hopes of preventing community spread.

“When it comes to wastewater signals, we’ll have a low fresh threshold for doing this sweep to try to find out where the sources are, because this is just the wrong period to have a community wide outbreak,” said Kandola.

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Pinpointing an exact location would likely be beyond the technology, unless an autosampler — the machine that is used to detect traces of the virus in wastewater — was installed in the water outflow directly outside a building. That is why the GNWT is unable to determine where the COVID-19 exposure risk is or how many people may be at risk.

Testing for COVID-19 has been implemented at the Chateau Nova, Yellowknife’s isolation centre, to help cope with the surge of people who should be getting tested for COVID-19.

Scott Roberston, a team lead for the NWT Health Authority’s COVID-19 response, said everyone in an isolation centre is being contacted directly to arrange testing. 

This is not the first time wastewater sampling has detected traces of COVID-19. Kandola said traces of the virus were found in Fort Smith’s wastewater sampling when it had five confirmed COVID-19 cases.

She added it is possible people who have recovered from COVID-19 could be “shedding dead virus” for days after their recovery, which would result in traces being detected by wastewater sampling.

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However, GNWT said once a trace has been detected, there is no risk of the same trace of COVID-19 being re-detected by the autosampler.

“It’s all new poo,” according to Mike Westwick, spokesperson for the GNWT’s COVID-19 response.

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