Nunavut mother tests positive for COVID-19 days after giving birth in Winnipeg hospital

A new mother from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, was put in intensive care in a Winnipeg hospital last week when she tested positive for COVID-19 just days after delivering a baby by caesarean section. 

The case speaks to the dangers of relying on interprovincial travel for access to medical care. 

A COVID-19 outbreak that began in Sanikiluaq earlier this month is believed to have been contained, but expectant mothers in the community of fewer than 1,000 must still travel to Winnipeg to deliver their babies. As of Sunday, there were more than 9,000 active cases in Manitoba.

Sanikiluaq Mayor Johnnie Cookie said his daughter Silatik Qavvik and her husband were in the province for nearly two weeks, preparing for the birth of their child.

Two days after learning he had a new granddaughter, Cookie and his wife Annie received the difficult news about their own daughter’s COVID-19 test result. 

He said he couldn’t think straight when he heard.

“My wife handed me the phone in tears,” he said. “When [Qavvik] started describing that she has COVID, and the results were positive, I started feeling terrible and my eyes started tearing up. It was very hard to handle this when I’m not with her.”

The new mother was put on breathing support. She was also separated from her newborn and husband to recover from the virus and from her delivery surgery.

Qavvik posted on Facebook on Thursday, asking for prayers and strength, and for people to treat COVID-19 like a real danger. 

“People are not taking this seriously. They think COVID-19 is funny. Look where I am at now. I am at NICU. This isn’t funny at all. I’m so scared, I am here to get better,” she wrote. “Listen carefully if you need to do a lockdown, do not visit, wash your hands, social distance. I beg you to do this, I am trying to save lives.”

The young family is doing better now and Qavvik, while still recovering in the hospital, has been able to see her baby. 

Sanikiluaq Mayor Johnny Cookie with his wife Annie. He says his family was upset to learn their daughter caught COVID-19 while travelling for medical reasons. He says people need to follow public health rules to keep other families safe. (Submitted by Johnnie Cookie)

Keep your loved ones safe, says Cookie

Cookie said he is sharing his family’s story so people will be more alert and take the pandemic seriously. He is asking Nunavummiut to keep their own loved ones safe by following public health orders. 

“I need to spread this news,” he said. “Everyone in Nunavut should be very careful. Go by what the physicians are telling us. Wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask and avoid gatherings, and don’t visit.”

There were two cases of COVID-19 in the Belcher Islands community of Sanikiluaq earlier this month. Both people have since recovered. 

Cookie said the municipality has been enforcing public health guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic, with even more efforts being made since a territory-wide lockdown began nearly two weeks ago.

“I have tried to be open so people in my community will be aware and go by what health representatives are saying,” he said.

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