Yukon announces COVID-19 isolation period to drop to 7 days, with conditions

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Premier Sandy Silver and Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Catherine Elliott, said the isolation period for people with COVID-19 is being reduced to seven days in the territory. (CBC - image credit)
Premier Sandy Silver and Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Catherine Elliott, said the isolation period for people with COVID-19 is being reduced to seven days in the territory. (CBC - image credit)

Yukon's top doctor said the isolation period for people diagnosed with COVID-19 will reduce to seven days, if certain conditions are met.

As well, Dr. Catherine Elliott, the acting chief medical officer of health, said people with symptoms should assume they have COVID-19 and should skip testing.

Elliott made the announcements on Wednesday at the first COVID-19 update of the year, where she was joined by Premier Sandy Silver.

The territory is at the point where "you can safely assume that you have COVID[-19] if you have symptoms, and most people won't need a test," she said.

Wayne Vallevand/CBC
Wayne Vallevand/CBC

While that "might sound strange," she said the Omicron variant marks the beginning of a new phase in the pandemic and that the territory is shifting its management to be in line with the characteristics of the disease.

"When a disease is mild in most people and highly transmissible, it results in many cases in the population. People with strong immunity don't need a test," Elliott said. "They just need to slow down, stay home and take care of themselves for seven days."

She said "very soon," the territory will have information online that will help Yukoners identify their symptoms. She urged people to check that information before seeking testing.

Paul Tukker/CBC
Paul Tukker/CBC

Elliott also described situations in which Yukoners can come out of isolation "when and if all of the following conditions are true."

  • If you are a case and it's been two weeks since your booster shot: Seven days have passed, you feel better and you're off any medicines like Tylenol or Advil or ibuprofen and still don't have a fever.

  • If you are a case and you've had two shots, and it's between two weeks and six months since your second shot: Seven days have passed and you feel better. And you are off medicines like Tylenol, Advil or ibuprofen and you still don't have a fever.

  • If you are a case and you're not in the categories above, then isolate for 10 days until you feel better, you're not taking any anti-fever medicines and you don't have a fever.

The Yukon now has a testing positivity rate of about 35 per cent, meaning for every 100 tests that are completed, 35 of them are positive. There are now at least 325 active COVID-19 cases in the territory, according to the territory's latest numbers on Wednesday afternoon.

She added there are "many more cases that have not been diagnosed," and that the current numbers reflect "a portion of the true number of cases in Yukon."

Elliott said just because a community doesn't have cases counted on the territory's website, it doesn't mean that there's no one with COVID-19 currently in that community.

"Not everybody's getting tested. Not everybody is counted," she said adding the COVID-19 case count is based on the "best information we have."

There are currently two people in hospital in Yukon, Elliott said, one of whom is in ICU. The territory only has four ICU beds, all in Whitehorse, and she said the health system could quickly be overwhelmed if people don't follow the health measures.

The average new daily case count is 50 over the past seven days and 63 over the past three days, meaning the case count is still rising, Elliott said.

Missed the news update? Watch is here:

Schools to stay open

The surge in cases across the Yukon came just as children went back to class on Tuesday after the holiday break. But the premier said Wednesday that schools are also set to remain open.

"It is our priority to keep students in the classroom. Schools should be the last thing to close down in a pandemic," Silver said.

"We know that keeping schools open and available to students is good for their well-being. Social interaction is important, especially as we work to minimize the social activities that are going on outside of schools to limit the spread of COVID-19."

Silver also said when the state of emergency was declared last November, the territory strengthened public health measures in schools, including requiring students to wear masks at all times when inside schools."

However, some Yukoners seem hesitant to send their child back to school. In Dawson City, only about 36 of around 250 students attended school on Tuesday. Silver pointed to the frigid weather as one possible reason for the low attendance.

Elliott added that virtual learning is a "big operational decision," one that the territory will take "if we need to, to keep people safe and students safe."

"And, we're ready to do that, but we don't need to do that right now," she said.

On the evening of New Year's eve (Friday), the territory announced more public health measures, which include limits on indoor and outdoor personal gatherings, limits on organized gatherings and restrictions on restaurants and bars, as well as recreation and leisure sites such as gyms. Those are effective as of Jan. 7, but Elliott recommends people start following them right away.

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