Yukon issues mask advisory in Watson Lake, public exposure notice and cautions domestic travellers

Health officials are 'strongly recommending' people in Watson Lake wear masks in indoor public spaces after seven new COVID-19 cases were discovered in the community. Yukon also issued a public exposure notice for an Air North flight and is cautioning domestic travellers after several cases linked to travel.

7 new cases in Watson Lake, exposure notice for Air North flight

Health officials are "strongly recommending" that people in Watson Lake wear masks in indoor public spaces, after seven new COVID-19 cases were discovered in the community. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Yukon health officials are "strongly recommending" that people in Watson Lake wear masks in indoor public spaces, after seven new COVID-19 cases were discovered in the community.

In a Friday news release, the territorial government said the cases were identified in elementary and high schools, family clusters, and adults in the community. The release reads that this "indicates... there is transmission in the community."

There are now 25 active cases in the community.

Dr. Catherine Elliott, Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health, said that people at risk of severe disease, like people over the age of 65 or with chronic health conditions, should keep contacts to a minimum.

The vaccination rate in the Watson Lake area is below 75 per cent, according to the release, and failing to follow the above measures could lead to ongoing transmission.

"I am concerned about the increasing number of cases in Watson Lake and the potential for spread given the population vaccination rate," said Elliott.  

"Now is the time for us all to pull together and take the necessary steps to keep each other safe. This includes masking in indoor public spaces, practicing the Safe 6 and, for those who are eligible, getting your vaccine."

A rapid response testing team will be in Watson Lake from Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

People who tested negative prior to Sept. 17 are being asked to get tested again next week.

Vaccine clinics will be held at the Watson Lake Health Centre on Oct. 1, 8 and 15 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. People can book an appointment by phoning the health centre at 867-536-5255, but walk-ins are also welcome.

Case count

Elliott reported nine new cases of COVID-19 in the territory since Wednesday at noon.

The active case count in the territory now stands at 42, three more than were reported on Wednesday.

Cases linked to travel

After several COVID-19 cases in the Yukon were linked to domestic travel, the territorial government is asking Yukoners travelling in provinces experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases to exercise caution.

In another news release on Friday, Elliot said travellers should follow local COVID-19 guidelines and practise the "Safe 6" plus one — that is, social distancing, hand cleaning, staying home if sick, avoiding crowds, traveling with respect, self-isolating if necessary and wearing a mask.

"These travellers have fortunately had only mild symptoms but we can link their illness to travel," said Elliott. 

"We all know how easy it is to throw off the basics of the Safe 6 when fully vaccinated. Vaccine, plus the Safe 6 – washing hands, avoiding crowds or masking in crowds – will be the actions that continue to protect Yukoners when travelling."

British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan are currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The release said it's rare for fully vaccinated people to become severely ill if they acquire COVID-19, but they could still transmit the virus to unvaccinated or more vulnerable people. 

Exposure notice

Yukon health officials also issued Friday a public exposure notice for an Air North flight between Vancouver and Whitehorse.

The notices impact passengers aboard flight 4N510 departing at 9:25 a.m. from Vancouver to Whitehorse on Tuesday, Sept. 21.

Eliott said in the release that this is a low-risk exposure and everyone on the plane should monitor for COVID-19 symptoms until Oct. 5.

Passengers should arrange for testing if symptoms develop by calling 867-393-3083, booking a test online or contacting their local community health centre.