Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media during a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

COVID-19 cases up to seven as YG rolls out border checkpoints

“We’re in this for the long haul and we need to look after ourselves physically and mentally”

There is a seventh case of COVID-19 in the Yukon, but chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley said the actions of the public to prevent the spread of the virus are working.

“I want to be clear that these are not cases that keep me up at night. We will continue to see these cases pop up, like little arrows trying to penetrate the armour we have created,” Hanley said at a press conference on April 6 in Whitehorse.

With the Easter long weekend upcoming, Hanley stressed that the public needs to continue to act responsibly during the holidays.

“It is important for us to pace ourselves as we go through this pandemic experience,” said Hanley. “We know that we’re in this for the long haul and we need to look after ourselves physically and mentally.”

Hanley reiterated the message that exercise and fresh air are important, but that public health measures need to always be observed — including avoiding large gatherings, maintaining social distancing and minimizing risk related and unrelated to COVID-19 — in order to keep first responders and medical personnel free to deal with COVID-19.

Any individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or were in contact with a positive case are still required to remain in indoors and in isolation.

John Streicker, minister of community services, echoed that sentiment — this is not the weekend for a snowmobile trip to a summit or a visit to a community, he said.

“We know spring is calling, but right now we have to keep our communities safe. The mountains aren’t going anywhere soon,” said Streicker.

The government also announced that Civil Emergency Measures Act enforcement officers are now in place at road and air entrances to the Yukon to ensure that all those entering the territory are aware of and obey current public health protocols.

Officers are in place at the weigh scales on the Alaska Highway south of Watson Lake, at the junction of the Alaska Highway and the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, and at the Whitehorse airport.

All cars entering the Yukon at those points will be required to stop, and anyone entering the Yukon via road or air will be required to provide contact information, detailed travel plans and self-isolation information.

At international border crossings, enforcement is being handled by Canada Border Services Agency officers.

All travellers returning to the Yukon are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Any travellers passing through the territory are required to pass through the Yukon within 24 hours and minimize stops.

Hanley also spoke about the use of masks by members of the public.

Wearing a mask does not replace any of the other measures, like physical distancing or hand washing, Hanley said.

Masks are required for medical professionals, and as such should not be used by the public. Homemade masks are an option, he said, but not necessarily effective.

“Wearing homemade masks is not a proven measure,” said Hanley, explaining that it may help reduce the spread of the virus if infected, analogous to covering one’s mouth when coughing.

If an individual decides to wear a homemade mask, Hanley said it is key to wash one’s hands when putting it on or taking it off.

Hanley added that unless specifically directed to wear a mask, no member of the public should feel compelled to.

The seventh case was confirmed on April 4 and is a Whitehorse resident who returned from travel to Europe.

The individual followed all public health instructions and immediately began self-isolating on returning to the territory.

“We are pleased that so far, no Yukon cases have required medical treatment,” said Hanley.

As of 3 p.m. on April 6, a total of 775 people have been tested for COVID-19 in the Yukon.

Of those 775 tests, seven came back positive, and four of those cases are now considered recovered.

A total of 740 tests were negative and 28 tests are pending results.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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