Working together to slow a COVID outbreak in Iqaluit

By Candace Lamb, Canadian Red Cross
From left to right, Red Crossers Guy Day Chief, Tim Stringer, Laurence Durocher and Diane Wallace in Iqaluit, Nunavut. They are wearing red vest and winter coats.
As a COVID-19 outbreak in late April and early May 2021 impacted Iqaluit and some of the support organizations in the city, Mayor Kenny Bell knew that help was needed. 

“It was really nice to have Red Cross reach out and once they did, we jumped on the opportunity for sure,” Kenny says. 

The Canadian Red Cross was brought to Iqaluit in mid-May to provide additional support to a homeless shelter in the city but, by the time the team left, they had also done Epidemic Prevention and Control (EPC) assessments for 13 organizations across the city.

Red Cross assessments provided critical, targeted information to help prevent further outbreaks in these facilities. 

Man in protective mask and scrubs preparing meat in kitchen for Uquutaq Men's Homeless Shelter.“Red Cross deployed so quickly and efficiently, and it was a real relief to have them come to Iqaluit to provide assistance to us,” says Amy Elgersma, Chief Administrative Officer for Iqaluit.

Recommendations from the assessments are meant to complement and supplement existing policies and procedures, focussing on prevention, mitigation and containment initiatives. 

“We look for a number of different things like what kind of cleaning agents are being used, zoning and procedures,” explains Guy Day Chief, the team lead for the Red Cross. “About 24-48 hours after the assessment, the organization receives a report with recommendations, links to additional information and resources, as well as a point person to direct questions to.”

The Canadian Red Cross is uniquely positioned to provide such support, using extensive knowledge and experience gained in responding to other epidemics such as Ebola and cholera.

Red Cross team meeting with organizations in Iqaluit to help with Epidemic Prevention and Control assessments.Since April 2020, the Canadian Red Cross has assessed and provided EPC support in more than 200 facilities across Canada.

The mayor is proud that Iqaluit was the last Canadian capital city to face an outbreak. He credits Iqaluit’s citizens for taking the response seriously and following all the Chief Public Health Officer’s orders and lock down requirements, for helping to quickly get the spread under control. 

Guy notes that the city was very welcoming and open to the Red Cross EPC assessments.

We followed up with each of the organizations a few days after they received their report and they were all quickly taking steps to implement the recommendations, which was great to see,” he says. 

The mayor thanked Guy’s team and the Red Cross as they departed on May 27, after two weeks in the city, leaving Guy feeling good about the work that his team had done.

“I believe the city was moving in the right direction with COVID and the work we did in the community was just another layer of prevention.” 

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