Students who attended F.H. Collins prom must self-isolate, says chief medical officer

Students who attended the F.H. Collins Secondary School prom event must self-isolate. As well, over time, if people follow the public safety rules, the surge in cases will ebb, according to Dr. Brendan Hanley, the territory's chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Brendan Hanley says cases in the territory could soon ebb as Yukon not seeing 'explosive outbreak'

Yukon Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley at the Government of Yukon COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse, Yukon on August 5, 2020. The government announced new cases today. (Government of Yukon/Alistair Maitland)

All Grade 12 students who attended the F.H. Collins Secondary School prom event in Whitehorse on June 11 need to self-isolate until the end of day on June 25, at 11:59 p.m, according to a statement from Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley on Friday evening.

The Yukon government announced nine new cases of COVID-19 Friday, according to a news release. One of those is an out-of-territory case who has been diagnosed in Yukon. All but one of the new cases are in Whitehorse with one in a rural community. The release says all are isolating and recovering at home.

One of nine new confirmed cases announced Friday is a student at the school who attended the event. Those who attended the F.H. Collins cap and gown event on June 10 are being asked to self-monitor only and letters are being sent to students involved.

Hanley also said students in four Grade 9 classes at Porter Creek Senior Secondary School need to self-isolate until the end of day on June 25. In the news release Friday evening, he said letters are being sent to students in those classes. If students or their parents do not receive a letter by the end of day Friday, the student is not required to self-isolate.

"We have identified both these two Whitehorse high schools because of the sheer number of people who are affected," Hanley said in the news release.

"We are seeing other school cases but are so far able to focus our contact tracing and advice to students and parents."

He added that "fortunately" the territory is not yet seeing evidence of transmission within the schools, but rather young people acquiring COVID-19 in the community and then going to school.

"The fact that school is now over is also helping us," he said.

Yukon's total case count is now 153, 64 of which are active, including one probable case. Thirty-one are confirmed as the Gamma (P.1) variant, however it is presumed that all are this variant of concern.

Cases could soon ebb

Predictions about Yukon's COVID-19 outbreak appear to be coming true, and there's a silver lining — in time, if people follow the public safety rules, the surge in cases seen now will ebb, according to Hanley.

"We are in the stage where from day to day we are seeing a steady increment of cases," Hanley said.

"We're not seeing an explosive outbreak. We're also going to be moving into seeing some more recoveries starting to balance that out."

Government intervention revolves around containment, and there are telltale signs that work is already paying off, Hanley said, noting that contract tracing has sent hundreds of people in self-isolation already.

"That is really our key to encircling this outbreak," he said. 

Vaccination uptake on the up and up

Vaccination drives across Yukon are successful, even in the past week, Hanley said.

Since last Friday, roughly 500 first doses have been administered; for second doses, the number sits at about 300, Hanley said. 

In recent weeks, attention has shifted to vaccination uptake for youth between the ages of 12 and 17. 

Hanley said as of Thursday, 59 per cent of this demographic has been vaccinated. 

Seventy-nine per cent of this age group has received the first dose, while 68 per cent has received the second, he said.

"We're getting to good levels of vaccination, we clearly need to go as high as we can."

Don't cancel plans, exercise caution 

Weekend plans shouldn't be on the chopping block — people should just be careful, Hanley said.

"We want to avoid those activities that could still get us into trouble or cause another outbreak for that matter," he said. "Stick to your bubble, or have gatherings, which are still allowed, which are following the public health measures that we have in place."

Long weekends present the opportunity to hit the road. Hanley urges travellers to be mindful of what those in the communities want first.

"Because there is a difference from community to community as to whether they even want communities or not, or what the expectations are," he said. "Respectful travel is so important, as well."

Hanley urges people to steer clear of socializing if they show any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, adding even a mild cough or a runny nose warrants a test for the virus. 

"We need to regain that control," he said. 

According to a Yukon government news release, drive-up testing is now available at the COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. seven days per week. 

With files from Danielle d'Entremont