Yukon's COVID-19 cluster a 'landmark event,' chief medical officer of health says

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WHITEHORSE — Yukon's chief medical officer of health says a cluster of five COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake is a landmark event.

Dr. Brendan Hanley says the cluster is the first to occur outside of the territory's capital and the source of the virus may never be known.

He says the cases are a reminder that the territory is not impervious to COVID-19.

The cluster occurred in two family groups in the same circle of transmission, and contact tracing has not turned up any further cases.

Premier Sandy Silver says the cluster and subsequent investigation is a good reminder that it's important for people to not let their guard down.

Hanley says residents should avoid indoor Halloween parties this weekend, with potential gatherings of over 10 people limited to outdoor spaces.

"I'm not trying to make life more difficult for people, in fact it's the opposite. I'm trying to help us get through this pandemic with as little damage as possible," Hanley says. 

Hanley also defended the time it took to notify residents about the exposure.

The cases were reported Oct. 22, with the government holding a news conference a day later to announce the cases.

Hanley says for officials to turn around the health data related to the cases in less than 24 hours is "pretty good."

"There's always going to be a lag when we actually learn the results," he said. "We do not carry out contact tracing overnight or during the night ... that begins first thing in the morning."

The government also announced a new charge of failing to self-isolate against a person, bringing the total number of charges issued in the territory during the pandemic to 20.

Yukon has had 22 cases of COVID-19, with 17 of those having recovered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.

The Canadian Press