Avoid Halloween parties, urges Yukon's chief medical officer

·4 min read

Yukon's chief medical officer urged anyone with even mild COVID-19 symptoms to get tested following an outbreak in Watson Lake this week, and asked all Yukoners to avoid Halloween parties.

Dr. Brendan Hanley gave his weekly update on Wednesday, as the territory grapples with its first COVID-19 outbreak in a rural community.

Hanley said the source of the infection in Watson Lake is still unknown, after five people from two households recently tested positive.

However, he said, public health staff tested many people in the past few days and have not found any new cases.

"I think we can say with some confidence that we are not finding evidence of ongoing transmission," said Hanley.

Hanley urged people to follow COVID-19 precautions following the new cases, including self-isolating if you have any symptoms, keeping a distance of two metres from others and avoiding crowds — particularly on Halloween.

"I'm asking all Yukoners who are planning to party to reconsider," he said.

"Your participation may have severe consequences not only for yourself."

He urged people to get tested for COVID-19 and stay home even if they have mild symptoms, like a runny nose

John Robertson/CBC
John Robertson/CBC

Unlike in other jurisdictions, Hanley says Yukon children can trick-or-treat this year, provided they follow safety precautions.

Hanley implored trick-or-treaters to stick within their social bubble and keep their distance.

He said wearing a Halloween mask will not prevent people from passing on the virus, and he advised children to carry a broom, sword or hockey stick to knock on doors.

Hanley said Watson Lake, "is just a small illustration of what can happen if we let our guard down."

Watch Wednesday's news conference here:

Public exposure sites in Watson Lake

Hanley has asked anyone who was at the following locations and has symptoms to call the Watson Lake hospital if they live in town, or the health centre in their own community, to arrange for testing:

  • Watson Lake Foods – Super A on Oct. 8 and Oct.16.

  • Home Hardware on Oct. 7 and Oct. 10.

  • Big Horn Motel on Oct. 7 through 9 and Oct. 13 through 20, which was extended from the original date.

If people are not sure when they were in these locations, Hanley said they should monitor themselves for symptoms.

The first three cases in Watson Lake were reported Friday, with the other two cases reported Monday.

Both groups of cases were members of the same two households, and all patients were self-isolating at home, Hanley said.

On Monday the Liard First Nation office shut down as a precaution.

One person charged for not self-isolating

A Yukon resident was also charged on Sunday for failing to self-isolate after travelling outside Yukon's "bubble" with B.C., N.W.T. and Nunuvut. A total of 15 people have been charged under Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) since the pandemic began.

Yukon has seven active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. The territory has confirmed a total of 22 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 15 people recovered. Yukon has tested 3,934 people.

At the news conference Wednesday, Hanley was asked about the delay in publicly announcing the Watson Lake cases. The first cases were confirmed Thursday night, but the public was not informed until after 5 p.m. on Friday.

Hanley said officials need to do contact tracing before making an announcement, so they can determine whether exposure notifications are required. He said reporting cases within a 24-hour window is reasonable.

Hanley also said there was no plan to provide people's test results online. He said they prefer to deliver test results in a personalized phone call, so that people know what to do if they are infected.

Premier Sandy Silver called the Watson Lake cluster "an important wake up call."

He said it's easy to forget about COVID-19 safety measures, when the territory does not have cases.

The premier related how a bar staff member recently reminded him about physical distancing when Silver saw an old friend at the brewery.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Silver said.