There is no intent here to get into a regular “Dr. Kami Kandola did the right thing again” refrain on this page. A newspaper’s editorial board is on firm ground when challenging political decisions, but less so with the judgement of medical professionals, certainly when speaking about someone with the experience and expertise of the chief public health officer of the Northwest Territories.
But popping the Nunavut travel bubble hours before it was revealed that the Covid-19 caseload within our young cousin to the east had exploded by almost 100 per cent overnight? That’s tremendous foresight and extraordinary timing.
The risk to small communities and health-care systems with limited capacity that Kandola and her counterparts across the North, the country and the world have been warning us about is now playing out in Arviat, Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and that fragile and precious gem nestled in southern Hudson’s Bay, Sanikiluaq.
The increase of 26 cases announced Tuesday morning is eye-catching but probably not surprising to anyone versed in the reality on the ground in small Northern hamlets. There are similar if not more severe housing challenges in Nunavut, or however the government of the day describes far too many people living in spaces that are too small for the group and, statistically speaking, probably deficient in at least one regard (mould, insufficient insulation, plumbing issues).
What is a contagious virus to do but set up shop and wait for victims?
Having access to any of the 24-hour news channels offers the opportunity to hear quips like “You don’t have to believe in Covid, Covid believes in you,” or to see a juxtaposition of the faces of four or five premiers with the exact same expression of exasperation and exhaustion. The strained patience of a parent who almost flattened a bicycle left in the driveway for the fifth time.
Thousands of new cases have prompted governments from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island to regress in their reopening plans.
Because the bubble is gone, Nunavummiut who travel to Yellowknife for medical reasons will have to self-isolate when not at their appointments. Current statistics on the subject seem to be hard to come by, but Nunatsiaq News reported in May that at that time, there were 44 Nunavummiut on medical travel in Yellowknife.
As Nunavut chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said, “The last week has shown us just how quickly COVID-19 spreads.” There is nowhere Covid-19 can’t get and the unfathomable distances between us are irrelevant. We are all connected, and cheek-and-jowl for all intents and purposes as far as this modern-day plague is concerned.
While the imaginary island of our immunity from this global emergency erodes, it’s comforting to know the pros like Dr. Kandola still have a steady hand on the helm.