Yukon announces new case of COVID-19, first in territory in months

Yukon's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, confirmed on Friday that a Whitehorse resident has tested positive for COVID-19.

Patient recently travelled to Dawson City and was in Whitehorse during infectious period

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse in July. Hanley confirmed Friday that a Whitehorse resident who travelled to Dawson City has tested positive for COVID-19. (Government of Yukon/Alistair Maitland)

Yukon has its first locally-acquired case of COVID-19, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley on Friday.

The case involves a Whitehorse resident who travelled to Dawson City, and visited tourist sites, with family members within the last two weeks, Hanley said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

The person had not travelled out of territory, he said, and was also in Whitehorse during the infectious period. 

Last Friday, Hanley warned that Yukoners may have been exposed to COVID-19 after two visitors to the territory subsequently tested positive for the disease. The visitors had been to Dawson City and Whitehorse. 

"Today marks another pivotal moment in the still young history of COVID-19 and Yukon," Hanley said Friday.

He said they suspect there is a chain of transmission between the visitors and the new patient. He said it is possible the person acquired the infection either in Whitehorse or in Dawson.

Contacts in Dawson have been identified and officials are following up with them. Anyone who was in Dawson between July 20 to present should monitor for symptoms, he said. Dawson residents who exhibit even mild symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to get tested at the Dawson City Community Hospital or the local health centre, the government said.

As long as we stay in that containment mode and stay ahead of community spread, that is our goal.- Dr. Brendan Hanley

Whitehorse residents who have travelled to Dawson City since July 20 and are experiencing symptoms should call Yukon Communicable Disease Control directly, tell them you were in Dawson, and arrange to get tested. 

People who may have been at Superstore in Whitehorse between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Aug. 1, or who attended the Sunday service at Sacred Heart Cathedral at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 2, should also monitor themselves for symptoms.

Dr. Brendan Hanley said he is "just as confident" following the newly-confirmed case on Friday. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

It's important anyone with "even mild" symptoms step forward for testing, Hanley said. "This is how we're going to be able to live with COVID."

The patient is "feeling better," Hanley said. He received the positive result this morning, after the patient was tested in Whitehorse. He didn't specify where in Dawson City the person visited, but said they are investigating sites that were in common with the other infected visitors. The patient is recovering at home.

'We expected to see cases'

Hanley said there is no need to change the border rules for visitors, or walk back on Stage 3. He said he is not considering making face masks mandatory at this time.

"We can panic, we can assign blame, we can regret any decisions made to date," he said, "or we can decide that this is another COVID hurdle to overcome, which I can assure you we will."

He urged people to work together and support each other.

"I think really nothing has changed," Hanley said, adding he is "just as confident as I was three days ago."

"We expected to see cases," said Hanley. "As long as we stay in that containment mode and stay ahead of community spread, that is our goal."

Hanley said this does not mean Yukon has community transmission. It is likely a "second generation" case related to an original exposure outside Yukon, he said, which is still considered travel-related.

He urged people to continue to follow the "safe six," including physical distancing and hand-washing.

"We will still be going to work. We will still be going to school. We will still play," he said.

Hanley said last week that another jurisdiction notified Yukon Communicable Disease Control about the two visitors who subsequently tested positive. At the time, he said risk to Yukoners was low.

As a result of the public health warning last week, there was a backlog in testing. Hanley said the advisory led to a flurry of testing last weekend and early this week.

This is Yukon's 15th confirmed case of COVID-19. It has been months since Yukon or the N.W.T. has had an active case; Nunavut is still the only jurisdiction in Canada to not have any positve cases of COVID-19.

Three Yukon residents have tested positive for COVID-19 while outside the territory since July 1. The patients were recovering outside the territory before returning, the Yukon government said.

Miss the news conference? Watch it here:


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