Iqaluit elders home evacuated after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

IQALUIT, Nunavut — An elders home in Iqaluit, Nunavut was evacuated on the weekend after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, with some residents being sent out of the territory.

Four of the home's six residents were flown to a seniors living residence in Ottawa, while two others were transferred elsewhere in the territory.

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Nunavut's chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, said staff at the home must isolate for 14 days and he isn't sure when it will reopen.

"Because of the number of staff in isolation, there weren't enough staff left to provide safe, appropriate care for the next two weeks ... there was no other option other than moving them outside of Iqaluit," Patterson said Monday.

"When we lose not only nurses but other staff to something like this, in most communities in Nunavut there's not a large pool to draw from on short notice."

He said while all residents at the elders home are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, not all staff got the vaccine.

COVID-19 cases are also rising in the city's shelters and correctional facilities.

Six clients of the Iqaluit men's shelter and 12 people at the Baffin Correctional Centre have tested positive.

There are 23 people, including shelter clients, isolating in two hotels in the city.

Iqaluit has been under a strict lockdown since April 15, with all schools, non-essential businesses and workplaces closed and travel restricted.

Patterson said most of the city's new cases have come from indoor gatherings, including at least three house parties. On Monday, he said another party happened over the weekend.

To date, no one has been charged for breaking isolation rules. But Patterson said the RCMP are investigating a few cases where people have broken isolation.

Patterson said just over 50 per cent of adults in Iqaluit, a city of about 8,000 people and Nunavut's largest community, have received both doses of the Moderna vaccine.

He also said five people who are fully vaccinated have tested positive for COVID-19, but all or most are asymptomatic.

"The fact that only five have occurred indicates that the vaccine is effective and is consistent with all the data coming out about how effective it is at eliminating infection," Patterson said.

On Monday, there were 70 active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut — all in Iqaluit — and three residents were in hospital in Ottawa.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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