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2 more COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake, Yukon

Yukon's chief medical officer says two more COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Watson Lake this weekend, after a family cluster of three cases were reported Friday.

Total of 5 cases now identified in the town

Yukon's chief medical officer confirmed new cases on Monday morning. (Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/)

Yukon's chief medical officer says two more COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Watson Lake, Yukon, this weekend, for a total of five cases associated with an outbreak in the community.

The new cases were confirmed late Sunday night after several people were tested this weekend, Dr. Brendan Hanley told CBC's Yukon Morning.

The new infections are from the same household and the patients are self-isolating and doing well at home, Hanley said.

On Friday, Hanley first reported three cases in Watson Lake involving people who had not travelled outside the territory.

Hanley said the two new patients were in one of the potential exposure sites he identified on Friday.

He said he does not yet know the original source of the outbreak.

"I suspect there was contact with someone coming in to Yukon," he said, noting that Watson Lake is a border town and one of the exposure locations was a motel.

"It's quite possible that there was a contact" with someone from outside the community with COVID-19, he said. 

'Looking like a containable scenario'

Hanley told CBC's Yukon Morning that the new cases do not yet mean there is community spread. Given that many people tested negative this weekend, he said, "this is looking like a containable scenario."

Hanley said the investigation is ongoing and more cases may be identified.

On Friday, Hanley asked anyone who was at the following locations and has symptoms to call the Watson Lake hospital if they live in town, or the health centre in their own community, to arrange for testing:

  • Watson Lake Foods – Super A  on Oct. 8 and Oct.16.
  • Home Hardware on Oct. 7 and Oct. 10.
  • Big Horn Motel on Oct. 7 through 9 and Oct. 13 through 16

If people are not sure of when they were in these locations, Hanley said they should monitor themselves for symptoms. 

The Liard First Nation office was closed Monday. Chief Stephen Charlie said staff members were cleaning high-contact areas.

"We're just being cautious," Charlie told CBC's Midday Cafe.

"I really appreciate the membership being really calm about this."

Watson Lake Mayor Chris Irvin also said residents are handling news of the outbreak well.

He said activity was slower around town on Monday.

There were five confirmed COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake as of Monday. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Yukon has now reported a total of 22 cases since the pandemic began, with 15 people recovered.

The cases in Watson Lake are the first rural outbreak Yukon has experienced.

"This is another wake-up call," said Hanley.

He said all Yukoners should ensure they are following COVID-19 precautions at work and during gatherings.

Hanley said he is not reconsidering closing the border with B.C.

"Opening the border to B.C. was a calculated risk," said Hanley.

"Even with these recent cases, we cannot attribute a single Yukon case to an opening with B.C."

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