Yukon declares COVID-19 outbreak at another school, and offers booster shots for some seniors

·3 min read
A news release on Friday from Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Catherine Elliott said  kindergarten and Grade 1/2/3 split classes in Carcross have been affected. All students, teachers and staff are being directed to get tested even if they are vaccinated. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)
A news release on Friday from Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Catherine Elliott said kindergarten and Grade 1/2/3 split classes in Carcross have been affected. All students, teachers and staff are being directed to get tested even if they are vaccinated. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)

Yukon health officials have declared a COVID-19 outbreak at another rural school — Ghùch Tiâ Community School in Carcross.

In a news release on Friday afternoon, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott said the school's kindergarten and Grade 1/2/3 split classes have been affected. All students, teachers and staff are being directed to get tested even if they are vaccinated.

"Investigation into the transmission of recent cases in the community indicates a link to the classes at the school," the news release states.

"Students and staff were directed earlier this week to self-isolate but are now being directed to get tested."

Yukon Communicable Disease Control (YCDC) has contacted people in the affected classes, and has also contacted participants at two community events last week at the school — the Carcross Tagish First Nations Youth Night, and recreational judo. Both events happened last Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Officials announced earlier this week that there were confirmed cases at the Carcross school, as well as two schools in Watson Lake. An outbreak was earlier declared involving the Grade 4 class at Watson Lake's Johnson Elementary School.

Roxanne Coles
Roxanne Coles

In a statement, Elliott said the best way to protect children too young to be vaccinated is for the youth and adults around them to be vaccinated. She also urged anybody with symptoms to get tested.

"We are now living with COVID-19 in Yukon, and it will take all of us taking these steps to keep the impact on ourselves, our communities and our healthcare system to a minimum," Elliott said.

As of Friday, Yukon had 27 active cases of COVID-19. Four new cases were confirmed since Wednesday — three in Carcross and one involving a non-Yukoner diagnosed in the territory.

Booster shots for long term care residents

Also on Friday, health officials announced that residents of long term care homes in Yukon are now being given COVID-19 booster shots.

It follows a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) this week, that all seniors living in long term care homes or other congregate settings get a third dose of vaccine.

Yukon health officials say the boosters are being given at the recommended interval of at least six months since the first couple of shots. Residents of long term care homes were among the first recipients of the Moderna vaccine in Yukon, last winter.

Mark Kelly Photography/Government of Yukon
Mark Kelly Photography/Government of Yukon

Health staff will be in long term care homes between Oct. 1 and 8, offering booster shots. Those staff are from the vaccination clinic in Whitehorse, so that facility will be closed until Oct. 12.

Last month, Yukon health officials declared an outbreak at Copper Ridge Place in Whitehorse — the first confirmed at a long term care home in the territory — after a resident and a staff member there tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak was later declared over, with no additional cases.

'An important part of the vaccine protection'

In a statement, Elliott said she's pleased that the booster program is happening so soon after NACI's recommendation.

"This booster is an important part of the vaccine protection for Yukoners," she said.

NACI had earlier recommended booster shots for some people who were immunocompromised, but so far has not recommended boosters for the general population.

Elliott said earlier this week that it's not yet clear whether most people would need them.

"Most healthy people mount a good response from two vaccinations, and that's sufficient to keep that protection," she said.

"It's a very different situation than people in long term care, or people who are immunosuppressed."

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