Wastewater sampling results suggested there was no further transmission of COVID-19 in Yellowknife.
Dr. Kami Kandola, the territory’s Chief Public Health Officer said the reduced signal traces of the virus found in wastewater samples conducted up to December 9 meant it was likely there wouldn’t be an increase in COVID-19 cases, beyond the five found reported last week.
Public health completed 800 COVID-19 tests in four days, as a surge of people got tested at the CPHO’s urging. Kandola said the team was able to manage the surge well.
“People worked extended hours, and it was an adequate response, an excellent response to seeing an increase in wastewater signal, but it can’t be the norm,” said Kandola. “We cannot be living in a ‘surge mode’ every single day. We have to restrict those periods when we call staff to go above and beyond and work many overtime hours.”
Testing of the samples was done in batches to cut down wait times on for results and was done free of charge by Indigenous Services Canada.
“The partnership has been incredibly fruitful and it will continue,” Mike Westwick, communications manager for the GNWT’s COVID-19 response, said in an email. ”It’s a very effective way to pick up signs of virus when we otherwise may not through diagnostic testing alone so we can take decisive action as we did in Yellowknife.”
Continuing wastewater sampling is one of several steps the GNWT is taking to manage the expected surge in COVID-19 tests that will need to be conducted during the Holiday period.
Kandola added the territory is planning to roll out Panbio antigen testing kits before Christmas, as well as using the Abbot ID testing machines in Hay River, Behchokǫ̀, Norman Wells, Fort Simpson, Fort Smith. Those kits will provide “point-of-care” testing, with results from those machines being confirmed at either Stanton Hospital in Yellowknife or in Inuvik.
The territorial government will also be conducting targeted screening, focusing on high-risk workers, like healthcare professionals and RCMP officers. The last step is reiterating to NWT residents the importance of avoiding non-essential travel.
“Do you really need to do that non-essential trip now? Can you just wait a little while longer until we can all get our first dose and second dose,” Kandola said. “I’m literally saying weeks.”