Yukon health officials push to find new COVID-19 infections as case count climbs

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WHITEHORSE — Yukon's top doctor says he's concerned that there are more cases of COVID-19 going undetected and unreported in the territory.

Dr. Brendan Hanley said the territory has a high test positivity rate of 15 per cent, when the ideal number should be between one and two per cent.

"Obviously we don't know how many, but sometimes in situations like this that maybe two or three times what the actual confirmed cases are," he said at a news conference Wednesday.

Health officials hope to find as many COVID-19 cases as possible over the next few days so they can gain control of the current outbreak, he said.

"And it suggests that we are not getting to the bottom yet of this," Hanley said.

"We're not really showing that we're beyond the peak yet until we can really see that number going down. In other words, we want to test lots of people so that we're finding lots of negative results."

Yukon reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, for a total of 373 since June 1.

While Yukon has one of the highest vaccination rates, Hanley said part of the population of the territory remains heavily susceptible to the virus.

There are about 10,000 people who make up that group, including children under 12, who are not eligible for the vaccine, he said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Yukon has had 447 infections.

The increase in daily case counts is "seriously" straining hospitals and the acute care system, he said.

"We do have a stretch to go yet," Hanley said. "We are well into this wave, but we have weeks ahead of us."

More cases are now being detected among the vulnerable populations, including those who don't have secure housing or who share space with others, he said.

"I expect that we'll continue to see daily cases for at least a few more weeks, and weeks may stretch into months given the spread that we are seeing in an unvaccinated population," he said.

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

This outbreak is likely linked to one case introduced around Victoria Day and it spread with gatherings in June, Hanley said, adding a change in behaviour may lead to a drop in infections.

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

— By Hina Alam in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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