The Government of Nunavut Department of Health has identified a link between two presumptive of Covid-19 at Mary River Mine cases and a presumptive positive case that was announced on July 2.

While outside the territory, two miners came into contact with the presumptive positive case miner from earlier this month. A few weeks before arriving at the mine, the miners had all spent time together in a social setting.

“That’s the link that we’re wondering about right now,” said Dr. Michael Patterson during Wednesday’s news conference.

It is not “just enough to focus on testing, but to use testing as part of a system that ensures and protects the health of all Nunavummiut,” says chief public health officer Dr. Micheal Patterson during a press conference on July 15. Rajnesh Sharma/NNSL photo

“This information provides a potential connection between these presumptive cases, but it does not necessarily indicate that transmission occurred during this contact,” he said.

The most recent two presumptive cases were detected on the evening of July 13 and on July 14. Like these two cases, the presumptive positive case from earlier this month was also detected at the same mine site.

However, the present evidence is suggesting the transmission occurred outside of the mine site and outside of the territory, said Patterson

The two miners had no contact at the mine site with the first presumptive positive miner, said Patterson.

Patterson clarified the two miners were not part of the contract tracing group related to the first presumptive positive cases.

On July 6, Patterson said there were seven individuals who were found through contact tracing.

All the individuals connected to the two miners through contact tracing are presently self-isolating at the mine site. Patterson declined to reveal the exact number of contact tracing cases.

“The total number of contacts is too few to disclose,” he said, adding that if there is no definite evidence of risk to Nunavummiut, contacts are not disclosed unless there are more than five.

For confirmatory testing, swabs from the two asymptomatic miners and their contacts were flown south either on July 14 or July 15.

No staff from the Department of Health are presently at the mine site.

“We are confident that all the necessary precautions have been taken to minimize to the greatest extent possible the risk posed to Nunavummiut,”  Patterson assured.

False negatives are a problem

Miners flying into Mary River Mine are considered critical workers and are not expected to self-isolate for 14 days prior to entering the territory. They are tested for Covid-19 once they arrive in Nunavut.

When asked why miners are not tested prior to entering the territory, Patterson explained the problem of having false negatives.

“The problem is that a negative result doesn’t mean that they don’t have and won’t develop an infection,” he said.

When people receive negative test results, they worry less about Covid-19. This leads to not wearing a mask and not practicing distancing, explained Patterson.

“The take home message is you can’t put too much stock in a negative result,” he said. “And that’s why it’s not just enough to focus on testing, but to use testing as part of a system that ensures and protects the health of all Nunavummiut.”

The two miners were tested upon arrival and the results were negative. Now, they are presumptive positive cases, said Patterson.

“It wouldn’t have mattered whether they were tested before they got on the plane to come to the mine or when they landed. We would have wound up in the exact same situation.”

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Rajnesh Sharma

Rajnesh Sharma is a Canadian journalist, who has extensively travelled the world to experience various cultures. She has lived and worked internationally over the past decade, meeting and interviewing...