Yukon reports 1st COVID-19-related death, in Watson Lake

Officials are reporting an older resident in Watson Lake, Yukon, died Thursday from COVID-19, said the territory's chief medical officer.

'This is a very sad day for Yukon,' says chief medical officer

A person from Watson Lake who had COVID-19 died on Thursday, said Yukon's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley at a news conference on Friday morning. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Yukon is reporting its first COVID-19-related death.

A person from Watson Lake died on Thursday, said Yukon's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley at a news conference on Friday.

Hanley said the individual was "older" and had "significant underlying medical conditions."

He said the person died at home, "unexpectedly but peacefully."

The territory has seen a recent cluster of five cases in the rural community of Watson Lake, with an unknown source of infection. 

"This is a very sad day for Yukon, one that I had hoped we would not see," said Hanley.

"We are just as susceptible here to COVID as we are anywhere else."

Watch Friday's news conference here:

Hanley would not release details about the deceased person, saying confidentiality is important given Yukon's small population.

This is the first reported death related to COVID-19 in the North.

"Today I mourn with Watson Lake and with all of you," said Hanley.

He said a COVID-19 patient's status can change quickly, often in the second week of the illness. He said that the person had daily check-ins from physicians, and things would not have been different if the person had been in hospital.

"Sometimes things happen suddenly," said Hanley.

Hanley said people need to "redouble our efforts to protect our elders and more vulnerable citizens."

Hanley said the territory seems like it's been successful in containing the Watson Lake outbreak. He said that 53 people have been tested in the town so far. Watson Lake has a population of roughly 800 people.

Hanley said the other Watson Lake cases are doing well at home, with daily check-ins.

The risk of COVID-19 has not changed in Watson Lake or elsewhere in Yukon, said a government statement.

Hanley asked people to respect mask policies in local establishments, and wear a mask "if in doubt."

Five people were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 in Watson Lake, Yukon. One person died on Thursday, says Yukon's chief medical officer. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Yukon has reported a total of 23 cases since the pandemic began, with 17 people considered recovered.

Yukon reported its most recent case in Whitehorse on Thursday, which was not linked to the Watson Lake cases. The new case is linked to two travel-related cases previously reported in Whitehorse, according to a government statement. Health officials say the person was already self-isolating and there is no risk to the public.

At his news conference Friday, Hanley said Yukoners can still go out and trick-or-treat this weekend with precautions, but he urged people to gather only with their social bubble.

Condolences from premier

Premier Sandy Silver expressed condolences in a statement Friday afternoon.

"I am very saddened by this loss and I send my condolences to the friends and family of the deceased. On behalf of all Yukoners, I also send support and love to the entire community of Watson Lake at this difficult time," the statement reads.

The premier thanked people for their efforts to contain COVID-19, and asked people to stay vigilant.

"Let us stand together to support our fellow Yukoners as they mourn their loved one and share our strength with them at this time," he said.


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