'We learned from the past': Old Crow reopens after 2 COVID-19 cases triggered week-long lockdown

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Paul Josie, the deputy chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, says the lockdown was to prevent a repeat of what happened in December when one COVID-19 case quickly spread to 18 people. (Mia Sheldon/CBC - image credit)
Paul Josie, the deputy chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, says the lockdown was to prevent a repeat of what happened in December when one COVID-19 case quickly spread to 18 people. (Mia Sheldon/CBC - image credit)

A week-long lockdown in Old Crow, Yukon, paid off, says Paul Josie, the deputy chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation — there are no known COVID-19 cases there at the moment.

On Monday, after doing three days of rapid tests in the community, the lockdown was lifted.

Josie said the lockdown was triggered by two positive COVID-19 cases, confirmed by PCR tests, and was done out of precaution and to give the community time to get testing done.

"We wanted to make sure that we respond carefully," he said.

The two people who tested positive on PCR tests have since completed their isolation and are no longer contagious, says a post to the community's Facebook page. There were three others who tested positive on rapid tests too. Those cases have since isolated and tested negative on PCR tests, the post says.

During the lockdown, the community temporarily closed its office, with just a few staff members going in to help plan the rapid testing drive. The school and store were also both closed temporarily last week too.

Josie said the drastic measure was to prevent a repeat of what happened in December when there was an outbreak in the community that started with one person and quickly spread to 18 people.

"We learned from the past," Josie said. "We didn't want to see that kind of spread happen again."

Mia Sheldon/CBC
Mia Sheldon/CBC

There is another rapid testing drive happening in Old Crow this week, he said. One is on Thursday afternoon from noon to 4:30 p.m. and another is on Friday morning from 9 a.m. to noon local time.

"That's kind of a new precaution that we're trying to take, is identifying with the rapid testing as best as we can," Josie said.

He said anyone traveling to Old Crow this week will need to take a rapid test.

The community is currently reporting that 92 per cent of its members have had both COVID-19 vaccinations. Meanwhile, 45 per cent have had their booster too, and 98 per cent have had at least their first shot.

As of Tuesday, there was one person in hospital for COVID-19 in the territory, according to the acting chief medical officer of health.

As well, there were 211 COVID-19 positive cases across the Yukon reported on the territorial government's website. However, officials have said the true number is likely higher than that due to rapid testing not being included in this count. As well, health officials have told Yukoners to assume they have COVID-19 if they have symptoms and to skip PCR testing.

Rural communities will also be seeing rapid tests from the Yukon government soon. The territory announced Tuesday that it's working with municipalities and Yukon First Nations to distribute an initial 10,875 rapid tests across the territory.

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