Top GNWT Menu

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

Updated on March 30, 2020.

In this section

  1. What is COVID-19?
  2. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
  3. How does COVID-19 spread?
  4. What can I do to keep from getting sick?
  5. What do I do if you become sick or think I may have been exposed to COVID-19 disease while traveling or in my community?
  6. What do I do if either I or my family has returned from travel outside of Northwest Territories since March 7, 2020?
  7. I am currently outside of the NWT and scheduled to return home in the coming days.  What must I do?
  8. What are the expectations of my employer in continuing to shake hands with co-workers, clients, or the public?
  9. What can I do to protect myself in the workplace?
  10. What should you do if you have travel plans?
  11. What type of leave should I use if I am self-isolating after travelling outside the Northwest Territories or Nunavut?
  12. Should I stay home if someone in my family is sick or self-isolating?
  13. What type of leave will be available to me if I am symptom-free but am to self-isolate?
  14. What type of leave should I use if I am self-isolating and sick with cold and flu symptoms, am experiencing cold and flu symptoms and am awaiting COVID-19 test results, or have been confirmed to have COVID-19? 
  15. What code should I use to enter my sick or special leave in Peoplesoft?
  16. I have been directed to work remotely from home, but am unable to do so.  Will I need to take a form of leave?
  17. Will I need a sick note from my doctor in order to take sick leave or special leave?
  18. Will I need a “fit-to-return” to work medical certificate upon the completion of self-isolation?
  19. Will I need a “fit-to-return” to work medical certificate if I was experiencing cold and flu like symptoms, was tested, and received confirmation of a negative test result for COVID-19?
  20. Will I need a “fit-to-return” to work medical certificate before returning to work if I have tested positive for COVID-19, recovered, and now have tested negative?
  21. What if I do not have any Special or Sick leave credits left and have already been advanced the maximum amounts permitted under my collective agreement/handbook?
  22. I am a Relief employee who must self-isolate for 14 days.  Will I have access to paid leave?
  23. Can my supervisor direct me to go home if they observe COVID-19 symptoms?
  24. Can I refuse to stay home for the full recommended self-isolation period? 
  25. Can I work from home during self-isolation or while caring for an immediate family member?
  26. Will planned duty travel be cancelled or limited?
  27. Will the GNWT shut down offices if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in my community?
  28. Will annual leave be cancelled or restricted?
  29. Where can I get the latest information about COVID-19?
  30. *NEW*  I do not have internet access at home? Will the GNWT pay for me to set it up?
  31. *NEW* What do I do if I cannot afford to cover the cost of internet installation right now while I wait to be reimbursed?
  32. *NEW* If I incur overage costs on my personal internet account as a result of working from home, will the GNWT reimburse me?
  33. *NEW* I am using my personal phone to connect to conference calls, and I often have to use the 416 number as the 1‐800 number will not connect.  Will I be reimbursed for long distance charges?
  34. *NEW* How do I apply to have my overage or long distance expenses reimbursed?

What is COVID-19?

Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold.

The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus producing mild to severe respiratory infections. At this time, there are over 120 countries reporting confirmed cases of COVID-19 of which some are reporting community transmission. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic.  It is important that we prepare for the likelihood that the virus will spread further.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Most people (80%) with COVID-19 have mild symptoms. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure. Many people are presenting with flu-like symptoms such as, in order of frequency:

  • fever;
  • cough;
  • shortness of breath;
  • muscle aches; or
  • fatigue.

Severe cases may have:

  • difficulty breathing; and/or
  • pneumonia;
  • severe acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Individuals with fever, cough and/or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

Risk of severe disease may be higher for:

  • Older adults
  • People with chronic disease (for example: diabetes, cancer, heart, renal, or chronic lung disease)
  • Those with weakened immune systems

How does COVID-19 spread?

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets that spread when you cough or sneeze;
  • close, personal contact;
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands; and/or
  • in rare circumstances, they have found the virus in stool. 

A close contact is :

  • a person who provided care for the person with COVID-19, including family, or other caregivers, and healthcare workers who did not use protective equipment; or
  • a person who lived with or otherwise had close contact (within 2 metres) with the person with COVID-19 while they were sick; or
  • a person who had direct contact with bodily fluids of the sick person (e.g. was coughed or sneezed on).

What can I do to keep from getting sick?

We can reduce the spread of respiratory infections (this includes COVID-19), in our communities by practicing healthy respiratory practices. This means you and your family should:

1. STAY HOME if you are sick 

  • Wear a mask if you must go out especially if you are in a waiting room or in places with large crowds.
  • If you need to see your healthcare provider ask for a mask when you get there

2. AVOID CLOSE CONTACT with others if you are sick

3. TURN AND COVER YOUR NOSE/MOUTH with a disposable tissue for every cough/sneeze 

  • If a tissue is not available cough/sneeze into your elbow

4. THROW USED TISSUES IN THE GARBAGE

  • If there is no garbage, carry a small plastic bag to put used tissues in and throw out later

5. WASH YOUR HANDS for at least 20 seconds after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose 

  • Use alcohol-based sanitizer if no soap is immediately available

6. CLEAN/DISINFECT ANY SURFACES OR OBJECTS you or someone else might have touched while sick. daily. (i.e. doorknobs, taps, toilets, light switches, elevator buttons, railings, cell phones, etc.) 

  • Avoid sharing food, cups, glasses, dishes and cutlery

What do I do if you become sick or think I may have been exposed to COVID-19 while traveling or in my community?

If you are experiencing milder symptoms such as fever, cough or flu-like, take the NWT Online COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool or call:

  • Yellowknife: 867-767-9120, or book online at www.nthssa.ca/appointments
  • Inuvik: 867-490-2225
  • Fort Smith: 867-621-2233 or 867-872-0562
  • Hay River: 867-874-7201 (between 08:30-16.30). After hours call Emergency Department at 867-874-8050.
  • Other Communities can call their local health centres, www.hss.gov.nt.ca/health-centres

If your symptoms are severe (i.e. shortness of breath) call 9-1-1.

Please describe your symptoms over the phone before your appointment so the clinic can arrange to see you without exposing others. Let them know if you have travelled or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

What do I do if either I or my family has returned from travel outside of Northwest Territories since March 7, 2020?

If you returned from travel outside of the NWT from a Canadian or International destination between March 7th and March 21, 2020, you must immediately go into self-isolation where you are and contact protectnwt@gov.nt.ca or call 1-833-378-8297 between the hours of 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week for further direction.

Some examples:

  • If you returned to your home in Hay River from a trip to Edmonton on March 10, then you must stay where you are and self-isolate until March 24. (Self-isolation period of 14 days: March 10 to March 24)
  • If you returned to Yellowknife on your way home to Wekweètì on March 19 and have stayed in Yellowknife for the weekend before going home, you cannot go home. You must stay in Yellowknife and self-isolate until April 2. (Self-isolation period of 14 days: March 19 to April 2)

I am currently outside of the NWT and scheduled to return home in the coming days.  What must I do?

Anyone arriving in the NWT must self-isolate and stay at home for 14 days in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith only. No NWT resident is allowed to self-isolate in a small community or other regional center other than the four listed communities if they have returned from outside the NWT.

This is a measure to avoid overwhelming health centres in small remote communities, and ensure those exposed to COVID-19 are close a well-equipped hospital care.

You will need to:

Do all employees have to self-isolate upon return to the NWT?

The following persons are considered exempt from travel restrictions but would have different isolation requirements when entering the NWT:

  • Persons engaged in providing essential services, including but not limited to:
    • health and social service providers;
    • peace officers and others employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace;
    • federal and territorial parks officers.
  • Persons engaged in providing support services to essential services workers

Essential employees require WSCC risk assessment completed by their employer.

If you are deemed an essential employee you must self-isolate anytime you are not performing your essential service, including your commute. Please see:

The CPHO defines Essential Services as: a service that is provided by either a public or private organization, without which the safety, health or welfare of the community, or a section of the community, would be placed in danger.

What are the expectations of my employer in continuing to shake hands with co-workers, clients, or the public?

The GNWT is committed to following the advice from our Chief Public Health Officer on the importance of implementing social distancing measures where possible to assist in mitigating and containing the possible risk to the health of our employees and to all the residents of the NWT.  The majority of GNWT employees were asked to transition to work from home on March 19, but if you are in an essential role and still reporting to the worksite, we advise practicing health respiratory practices and social distancing.

GNWT employees are encouraged to forgo greetings involving physical contact (shaking hands/hugging) with co-workers, clients, and the public. GNWT employees are encouraged to maintain 2 metres separation and greet people with a wave, or head nod.

What can I do to protect myself in the workplace?

Employees are being asked to continue to follow healthy respiratory practices including washing your hands, cleaning and disinfecting any surface or objects you or others might have touched while sick,  and coughing and sneezing into your elbow.

You should also skip greetings involving physical contact, stay up to date with the latest information about COVID-19 and practice safe sharing.

What should you do if you have travel plans?

All GNWT employees are strongly encouraged to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the NWT.

All GNWT employees are strongly encouraged to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the NWT and Nunavut. If you do travel outside the territories, you are encouraged to refer to the Government of Canada travel alerts.

You will also:

  • be required to self-isolate in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith for 14 days upon your return; and
  • need to request leave before you travel to cover your self-isolation period if you are unable to work remotely.

All employees must speak with their supervisor before they travel to make the necessary leave arrangements. Like all residents, any employee who leaves the territories will also need to have an isolation plan approved by Protect NWT in place for their return.

What type of leave should I use if I am self-isolating after travelling outside the Northwest Territories or Nunavut?

If you are self-isolating after travel but can work remotely, you will not be required to use any leave.

If you travelled outside the NWT and Nunavut for non-essential reasons, you will be required to use annual, lieu or leave without pay for the 14-day self-isolation period if you are unable to work remotely.

Special leave and/or sick leave may only be accessed for self-isolation after travel under specific circumstances (i.e. medical travel). For more information, please refer to COVID-19 Leave Requirements for Travel Outside the NWT and Nunavut.

If you are currently outside of the NWT, you will continue to be able to access special leave for the isolation period if you are unable to work remotely upon your return
 

Should I stay home if someone in my family is sick or self-isolating?

You should try to avoid close contact with family members who are ill or self-isolating, as much as possible. If your young child, or an immediate family member requiring care, is ill or self-isolating, and you are unable to work from home Special Leave may be used for this purpose.

What type of leave will be available to me if I am symptom free but am to self-isolate?

If you are self-isolating but able to continue to work from home, you do not need to enter any leave.  If you are unable to work because you are caring for a ill child or an immediate family member, you should enter Special Leave with Pay using the code ‘Self Isolation’.

What type of leave should I use if I am self-isolating and sick with cold and flu symptoms, am experiencing cold and flu symptoms and am awaiting COVID-19 test results, or have been confirmed to have COVID-19? 

Sick leave. Employees experiencing symptoms of cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, experiencing those symptoms and are awaiting test results, or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 will have access to sick leave with pay.  This can be entered in Peoplesoft using the code ‘Covid 19’.

What code should I use to enter my sick or special leave in Peoplesoft?

For sick leave please use the code ‘Covid 19’. 

For special leave please use the code ‘Self Isolation’.

I have been directed to work remotely from home, but am unable to do so.  Will I need to take a form of leave?

If you have been directed not to report to the worksite but remote work from home is not feasible due to the nature of your work, technological challenges (such as no internet), or because you have minor children in the home which prevents you from working a full workday, you will continue to be paid. 

You are not required to enter Special leave.  Your normal workday will continue to be entered as Reg Time in PeopleSoft.

Will I need a sick note from my doctor in order to take sick leave or special leave?

No. We all must do our part to ease the burden upon our health care system as we face the challenge ahead.  Going forward and until further notice, the GNWT will not require employees to obtain a sick note to access sick leave. 

Will I need a “fit-to-return” to work medical certificate upon the completion of self-isolation?

No. If you have been symptom free during the recommended self-isolation period, you will not be required to provide a “fit-to-return” to work medical certificate as that would unnecessarily burden our medical system and cause unnecessary risk to possible exposure.

Will I need a “fit-to-return” to work medical certificate if I was experiencing cold and flu like symptoms, was tested, and received confirmation of a negative test result for COVID-19?

No. It is the expectation of the GNWT that employees will follow advice and direction from their health care provider and will accurately communicate to their supervisor when they are provided advice that they may return to work. 

Will I need a “fit-to-return” to work medical certificate before returning to work if I have tested positive for COVID-19, recovered, and now have tested negative?

No, if you have self-isolated and received two negative tests for COVID-19. It is the expectation of the GNWT that employees will follow advice and direction from their health care providers and will accurately communicate this to their supervisor before returning to the workplace.

What if I do not have any Special or Sick leave credits left and have already been advanced the maximum amounts permitted under my collective agreement/handbook?

That’s OK.  If you:

  • are required to self-isolate and cannot work from home (Special Leave – peoplesoft code: Self Isolation);
  • must care for an immediate family member because they are sick and cannot report to the worksite if you are an essential worker (Special Leave – peoplesoft code: Self Isolation); or
  • are experiencing cold and flu like symptoms, or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and as a result cannot work from home or report to the worksite if you are an essential worker (Sick Leave – peoplesoft code: Covid 19)
  • have been directed to not report to the worksite but remote work from home is not feasible due to the nature of your work, technological challenges (such as no internet), or because you have minor children in the home which prevents you from working a full workday, you will continue to be paid. 
    • You are not required to enter Special leave.  Your normal workday will continue to be entered as Reg Time in PeopleSoft.

the GNWT will advance you the sick and special leave with pay you need during this time, regardless of the balance of your leave bank. 

Adherence to public health advisories and recommendations is of paramount importance in minimizing the possibility of community transmission during this public health event. It is the GNWT’s expectation that all employees will follow public health advisories and recommendations.

Yes.  Relief employees who must self-isolate or who become ill with Covid-19 will have access to paid leave.  You will enter “Leave with Pay – Covid 19 Self-isolation/Sick” (the code is currently being created and will be available for entry as soon as possible).

Can my supervisor direct me to go home if they observe COVID-19 symptoms?

Yes. Essential employees who continue to report to the worksite can be sent home by their supervisors if they are observed to have cold and/or flu symptoms. Managers and supervisors must ensure a safe work environment for all employees and will direct employees who are ill to go home and take sick leave (peoplesoft code: Covid 19).

Can I refuse to stay home for the full recommended self-isolation period? 

If you meet the criteria for self-isolation and come to work before the end of the recommended time period, your manager/supervisor will direct that you go home and only return to the workplace upon the completion of the recommended self-isolation period. We are asking for your support in order to protect your colleagues and the public at large.

Can I work from home during self-isolation or while caring for an immediate family member?

Yes. If you are able to work from home during your self-isolation because you are not experiencing any symptoms, then you are able to do so. Employees should use their best judgment about their personal situations and are encouraged to discuss their individual situations with their manager or supervisor.

Will planned duty travel be cancelled or limited?

Effective immediately, all work-related travel to international and Canadian destinations outside the NWT will be suspended.  All essential work related travel within the NWT will be approved only after a risk assessment has been conducted.

This is a precautionary measure to promote the health of our public servants and help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the NWT.  Employees are encouraged to participate in out-of-territory meetings or conferences via teleconferencing tools.

Will the GNWT shut down offices if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in my community?

The GNWT asked the majority of its employees to begin working from home on March 19, 2020.  This means that some offices have been closed.  The GNWT is continuing to deliver programs and services as normally as possible during this time.

You can find more information about program and service availability by visiting the Program and Service Availability during COVID-19 page on the GNWT flagship site.

If a lot of people in a particular community or office are sick, special arrangements may have to be made to ensure there is appropriate coverage. This may include taking on additional work or responsibilities that you are trained for in your own department. In some cases, employees may be asked to do work they are trained for in another department or for a community government. In some cases, you may be asked to travel to another community to deliver programs and services.

Normal procedures for overtime, acting pay and duty travel will apply if you are asked to do more work, do a higher paying job or travel to another community. 

Will annual leave be cancelled or restricted?

There are no plans to cancel or restrict annual leave across the Public Service. Managers always have to make sure they consider coverage requirements when they get requests for annual leave, but there are no plans to cancel or restrict annual leave for individuals. As always, you can be called back to work if there is an operational requirement, but every effort will be made to avoid this. 

Where can I get the latest information about COVID-19?

The source of truth as it relates to COVID-19 in the NWT is the Department of Health and Social Services. Their website has accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19. Any questions about symptoms, how to reduce the spread, and what to do if you think you are sick or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 can be answered by referring to information on the Health and Social Services website at https://www.hss.gov.nt.ca/covid-19

I do not have internet access at home? Will the GNWT pay for me to set it up?

If you have been asked to work from home to provide an essential service then the GNWT will pay to have a basic internet package set up for you.  The GNWT will pay for the activation costs, the costs of the basic monthly internet package as well as deactivation costs when you return to working at a GNWT worksite.  If you are not sure that you are considered an essential employee by your department, check in with your manager/supervisor.

What do I do if I cannot afford to cover the cost of internet installation right now while I wait to be reimbursed?

If you are unable to manage these additional costs in your personal budget, please discuss with your manager/supervisor.  

If I incur overage costs on my personal internet account as a result of working from home, will the GNWT reimburse me?

NorthwesTel has recently announced that they have made changes to their internet packages to facilitate remote work across the territory.  This announcement will affect NWTel clients in different parts of the territory in different ways.

  • NWTel clients with cable internet in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, and Norman Wells will have all overage fees waived in March and April.  
  • NWTel clients who are satellite DSL customers in Colville Lake, Gameti, Lutselk’e, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Sambaa K’e, Ulukhaktok and Wekweètì will have their monthly usage amounts increased by 50% at no charge.  
  • All remaining clients who are terrestrial DSL customers will have an additional 100 GB of monthly usage added to their accounts at no charge.  

Not all employees of the GNWT receive internet services from NWTel.  If you are a client with another internet service provider such as New North Networks, Ice Wireless or SSI Micro, the GNWT will reimburse you for any overage fees incurred during the period you are being asked to work from home.  You should have a conversation with your manager/supervisor to ensure that they know of and approve that you may be incurring overage charges in order to complete assigned work at home.

I am using my personal phone to connect to conference calls, and I often have to use the 416 number as the 1‐800 number will not connect.  Will I be reimbursed for long-distance charges?

Yes.  If you have been asked to work from home and part of your work requires you to participate in conference calls using your personal phone, then the GNWT will reimburse you for long-distance charges incurred.  You should have a conversation with your manager/supervisor to ensure that they know of and approve that you may be incurring long distance charges.

How do I apply to have my overage or long-distance expenses reimbursed?

The GNWT is asking employees who incur overages, or long distance charges as described above to use the expense module in SAM to apply for reimbursement.  The employee will enter an expense report in SAM and attach the necessary backup.  The expense reports will then workflow to the employee’s supervisor for review and approval.  Once approved by the supervisor, the expense report goes to FESS for final approval and it is paid to the employee as soon as it is approved (it doesn’t wait for the next pay period).

The UPK for SAM/HRIS is available online for review here