'I am concerned' health official says amid Whitehorse COVID-19 outbreak

·4 min read
'The outbreak is linked to youth and adults who are not yet vaccinated,' said Dr. Catherine Elliott, Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health, seen here in March 2020. (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)
'The outbreak is linked to youth and adults who are not yet vaccinated,' said Dr. Catherine Elliott, Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health, seen here in March 2020. (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)

Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak in Whitehorse, with nine new cases reported since Friday.

Dr. Catherine Elliott, Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health, reported six cases over the weekend and added another three on Monday.

"I am concerned about the outbreak at this point," Elliott said at a news conference Monday morning. She said she would not be surprised to see new cases among high school students in Whitehorse.

The cases announced in recent days were caused by the gamma variant, also known as P.1, according to a Yukon government news release on Sunday.

"The outbreak is linked to youth and adults who are not yet vaccinated. It includes participants at both organized and informal events linked to high school graduation, as well as adults who are socializing in close proximity such as at bars and house parties," reads the news release.

There were 21 active cases in the territory as of Monday, with at least 15 in Whitehorse and three in rural Yukon.

"Any grad-related event, whether formal or informal, socializing in close quarters — bars, restaurants, house parties — these are our exposure announcements," Elliott said on CBC's Yukon Morning on Monday.

"People in those circumstances should be self-monitoring, self-isolate if they get symptoms, and get tested."

She added that anyone who is a contact of a COVID-19 case must isolate for 14 days.

At least six of the new cases are related to the outbreak and all are self-isolating at home, said the release. Elliott said Monday that there had been no further hospitalizations.

"My hope is that the spread has already happened and everyone has started again following the 'safe six', and keeping their distance, isolating when sick … and wearing their masks," Elliott said on Monday morning.

"My concern is that with all the fatigue that we all have with COVID-19, people are finding this hard to do."

Source still unknown

Elliott also said that the source of the latest outbreak is still unknown, but health officials are trying to figure it out.

She also said it's not known how many Yukoners aged 12 to 17 have so far been jabbed. Vaccination clinics for people in that age group began two weeks ago in the territory.

She said the outbreak highlights the importance of getting vaccinated, and also following public health guidelines.

"I think the cautionary tale is, if we let our guard down, COVID-19 is highly transmissible and will spread," she said.

Watch Monday morning's news conference from Dr. Elliott:

The territorial government did not identify the locations of any of the rural cases, but some other governments did.

On Sunday, Kluane First Nation announced what it says is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Burwash Landing.

"Our community needs to remain exceptionally vigilant in this time of uncertainty," said the First Nation government in a post on its website. It also said the infected person is isolating.

Also on Sunday, Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) announced an unspecified number of cases in Carcross.

"C/TFN is in Level 3 of its COVID-19 Protocol and is closed with essential services only," it said in a post on its website.

Jane Sponagle/CBC
Jane Sponagle/CBC

Dawson City Mayor Wayne Potoroka said on his Facebook page last Thursday that there is a case in his community.

The Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin government, also on Facebook, posted about an exposure notice issued for its main administration building in Dawson City.

No tightening of restrictions at this time

There will be no tightened public health restrictions right now, said Elliott on Monday.

"Our cases are very clearly linked to this outbreak," she said. "If we start seeing a dramatic increase in cases, unlinked cases, or this type of thing, that's a step that we'll certainly consider and we're just not there yet."

On Friday, the Yukon government announced that a student at Porter Creek Secondary School in Whitehorse tested positive for COVID-19, and the school's prom ceremony scheduled for June 12 was cancelled.

Outbreak at Eagle Gold Mine 'under control'

An outbreak declared at Victoria Gold Corporation's Eagle Gold Mine site on June 6 is now "under control," with the majority of cases having recovered, said Elliott.

She said health officials will monitor the situation for another two weeks.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 107 cases reported among Yukoners, and two deaths.

The case count includes Yukoners who have been infected and recovered outside of the territory.

According to the Yukon government, as of June 7, 79 per cent of the territory's eligible adult population had had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 71 per cent has had two.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting