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Yukon officials push COVID-19 self-isolation measures after 2 new charges laid, 1 death

Officials in Yukon are stressing the importance of following self-isolation protocols during their first weekly update since the territory reported its first COVID-19-related death last week.

'I cannot stress how important it is to self-isolate as required,' says premier

Premier Sandy Silver said Wednesday that despite the conditions of the individual who died of COVID-19, 'the very short time' between the person contracting the virus and their death 'should give us all pause.' (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Officials in Yukon are stressing the importance of following self-isolation protocols, during their first weekly update since the territory reported its first COVID-19-related death last week.

Premier Sandy Silver emphasized the need to follow these measures at the press conference on Wednesday, as he announced the territory laid two new charges under the Civil Emergency Measures Act last week—both for the failure to self-isolate. 

"I cannot stress how important it is to self-isolate as required. It's not a suggestion and it's not something you can choose to ignore if inconvenient." 

Death 'should give us all pause'

Last week, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley announced that a person from Watson Lake died on Thursday, saying that the individual was "older" and had "significant underlying medical conditions."

Silver added Wednesday that despite the conditions of the individual, "the very short time" between the person contracting COVID-19 and their death "should give us all pause."

Hanley said the death is a reminder for people in Yukon to consider "whether as a population we are doing everything we can … to minimize the consequences of COVID[-19] in our territory." 

Watch Wednesday's news conference here:

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

Hanley confirmed Wednesday that all other tests in the community to date have come back negative, and that there is no added risk of COVID-19 transmission in Watson Lake. 

"We've identified no further spread, we're confident that the outbreak is contained, and that there is no evidence of community transmission of COVID[-19] either in Watson Lake or elsewhere in Yukon." 

He said the government will continue to investigate the source of the origin to determine how these individuals came into contact with COVID-19, but that they also need to be prepared not to find any results.

'Risk to communities remains low'

Yukon reported its most recent case in Whitehorse last week, 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.

Silver said Wednesday that following protocols is important despite saying that the risk remains low in the territory.

"The chief medical officer of health has confirmed that the risk to the communities remains low … because of your actions. We must continue to be vigilant."

Yukon Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley confirmed Wednesday that all other tests to date have come back negative, and that there is no added risk of COVID-19 transmission in Watson Lake.  (Government of Yukon/Alistair Maitland)

As of Monday afternoon, the territorial government's website there are 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory, with 20 that are recovered.

Hanley also announced Wednesday that the territorial government would be changing its reporting on COVID-19 cases, "in the spirit of focusing on risk rather than simply case numbers."

Rather than relying on a press release or a press conference following a new confirmed case of COVID-19, Hanley said people should check the territorial government's website.

"If there is a notice of particular importance such as a public exposure or a concern of community spread, we will release advisories and hold conferences as required."

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