COVID-19 cases increasing in Yukon's urban vulnerable population: officials

·3 min read
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley says the territory has 'a stretch to go yet' before seeing the end of the current wave of COVID-19. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley says the territory has 'a stretch to go yet' before seeing the end of the current wave of COVID-19. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)

Yukon's chief medical officer of health says the territory has "a stretch to go yet" before seeing the end of the current wave of COVID-19.

And, Dr. Brendan Hanley says, more new cases are being detected in vulnerable populations, including people without secure housing.

"We're seeing cases becoming, I would say, increasingly concentrated in the urban vulnerable populations," Hanley said at a Wednesday morning news conference.

"Due to predominantly congregate living situations — living with others — transmission can occur rapidly through this population."

He said officials are working to provide more social supports, such as "familiar, experienced, case management, social worker, counsellors" at self-isolation facilities, for vulnerable people who are infected or required to self-isolate.

WATCH | Wednesday's news conference:

Also on Wednesday, officials announced 13 new confirmed cases since the day before — all of them in Whitehorse — bringing the territory's total number of active cases to 138.

Seven people have been taken out of territory for care, and Hanley said six of those were still in hospital. Another 12 people were in hospital in Yukon.

Three people have died with COVID-19 since the beginning of June, while 210 people have recovered during the recent outbreak.

The wave of cases continues to put a strain on the territory's health-care system, Hanley said. Health-care workers have been called in from other jurisdictions to help out — 11 had arrived by Tuesday, and another was due on Wednesday, said Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.

"This additional support will provide some very well-deserved respite," for local workers, McPhee said.

Hanley said Yukoners should expect new confirmed cases of COVID-19 daily for the next few weeks or possibly months.

"For those of you who think this should have ended a while ago, well, I'm with you," Hanley said.

"If we hunker down for another week, or two weeks, we should start to see a significant decrease in cases."

McPhee said Yukoners' behaviour needs to change in response to the increased risk.

"We know there is a great deal of disruption and uncertainty in our territory right now. We are worried about floods and fires. But we need to concentrate on how we can all adjust our behaviours and keep each other safe," McPhee said.

Testing suggests many undetected cases

Health officials are urging people with symptoms to get tested. Rapid-response testing teams have been sent this week to Mayo and Old Crow.

Hanley said health officials are paying close attention to testing results, and the proportion that turn out to be positive. He said currently the "positivity ratio" is about 15 per cent — and that's a concern, as it suggests there are still many undetected cases.

"It suggests that we're not getting to the bottom yet of this. We're not really showing that we're beyond the peak yet until we can really see that number going down," ideally to about one or two per cent, he said.

"I would rather find lots of cases today and tomorrow and next week, lots of lots of cases, and find them and detect them and contain them so that we will prevent more people getting sick … so we can really show that we're getting ahead of this."

Hanley said the wave of infections continues to be largely concentrated among those who are unvaccinated, though some vaccinated people have also been infected.

Of the 33 people who have been hospitalized in Yukon for COVID-19, three were fully vaccinated, Hanley said.

As of Monday, 84 per cent of adult Yukoners had received at least one shot of vaccine, while 76 per cent were fully vaccinated. Among those aged 12 to 17, 68 per cent had received their first shot by Monday, while 35 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Hanley urged anybody experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to get tested, and to stay home from work if they're sick.

"We have repeatedly seen people who have gone to work while sick," he said. "Please remember that this has caught us out and caused cases or outbreaks repeatedly since last year."

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