Healthcare workers 'trickle in' to Yukon to help tackle COVID-19 outbreak

Yukon's chief medical officer says the territory is in something of a 'steady state,' adding between 15 and 20 new COVID-19 cases every day in what is still the territory's worst outbreak of the pandemic.

Chief medical officer says there are nearly 160 active cases in the territory

Yukon's chief medical officer is asking residents to stick to public health regulations as the territory experiences the highest case rate in the country. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

Four Red Cross nurses have arrived in Yukon to help with the territory's COVID-19 outbreak, according to a government health spokesperson. 

It comes after Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley requested federal government help, describing the territory's health system as "stressed" and saying that additional workers will help it from becoming maxed out. 

Hanley said said health care workers from outside the territory continue to "trickle in," including over the weekend, but couldn't say exactly how many have arrived at this point.  

"Most of our priority needs are here in Whitehorse," Hanley said in a Monday interview on CBC Radio's Yukon Morning when asked where the new workers will be deployed. 

There were 40 new cases of COVID-19 between noon Friday and noon Monday, Hanley said in a news release Monday evening. It brings the active case count to 149. There are 27 active cases in Whitehorse, seven active cases in rural communities and six pending confirmation.

"We are in a pattern now of about 15 to 20 new cases a day … something of a steady state," he said, adding that most of those cases are in Whitehorse among vulnerable populations, such as people experiencing homelessness.  

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week Yukon is facing its biggest spike in COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic despite a high number of eligible people having already received their first dose of vaccine.

There were also exposure notification letters sent to parents and staff of the preschool, after-school and kindergarten groups at Grow with Joy Childcare at the Days Inn location in Whitehorse for those attending the daycare from June 23-30.

Old Crow confirms case

Over the weekend, the Vuntut Gwitchin government announced that a single COVID-19 case had been confirmed in Old Crow, Yukon.

Hanley said that the "case investigation is going on as we speak" in Old Crow and that next steps for keeping the community safe will come from there. 

Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm told host Leonard Linklater on CBC Radio's Midday Cafe that thanks to contact tracing, some people with possible exposures have been sent home to self-isolate.

The community has also requested a contact tracing team and rapid testing team to come to the Old Crow, he said, adding that "we could see them here by Wednesday." 

Tizya-Tramm said that non-essential travel is prohibited in and out of the community — one of several public safety orders brought in last month by the Vuntut Gwitchin government when the current Yukon outbreak began. 

He added if all measures are followed, it will help ensure that the spread is "not significant" in the community.

"We do have this under control. And we're confident in our abilities to maintain public safety as we see this as it unfolds," Tizya-Tramm said.

Dana Tizya-Tramm, chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Yukon, said his community will continue to turn away non-essential travellers as they contend with their first COVID-19 case. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Long-term care visiting rules changed

Hanley has said Yukoners have an important role to play in preventing the outbreak from becoming worse. 

"Observe the public health measures currently in place, be very careful, and we will actually bend this curve, and it could be as little as a couple of weeks we will start to see a decline," he said. 

On Friday, the Yukon government announced it was altering visiting rules for long-term care homes as a precaution. 

For two weeks, starting July 2, the number of people allowed to visit loved ones in long-term care has dropped from six to two per resident.

With files from the Canadian Press