Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)

COVID-19 outbreak surges to 50 active cases in the Yukon

Officials urge Yukoners to continue following guidelines, get vaccinated

The Yukon’s COVID-19 case count is continuing to rise.

During the June 16 COVID-19 update, Chief Medical Officer of Health Brendan Hanley said there are currently 50 active cases in the territory with 16 new cases and a probable case since June 15.

Of the active cases, 44 are in Whitehorse and six are in rural communities.

The numbers bring the territory’s total COVID-19 count to 136, plus one probable case.

The cases are related to an outbreak that began in Whitehorse related to graduation events and parties.

Contact tracing is continuing and it’s anticipated there will be more cases in coming weeks.

Hanley was joined at the update by Premier Sandy Silver and Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston. All three urged Yukoners to get vaccinated and to continue following public health guidelines.

Silver began the press conference by acknowledging the outbreak that began in Whitehorse and resulted in a COVID-19 related death this week. It was the third COVID-related death in the territory. All three officials extended their condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.

“This is no doubt a serious situation,” Silver said, describing the death as “absolutely devastating.”

Silver emphasized the importance of following public health guidelines and regulations, urging Yukoners to get vaccinated.

“The actions that you take are not just to protect yourself,” he said, urging Yukoners to protect friends, family, neighbours and others.

The territory is increasing enforcement efforts, he said, noting Yukoners can make anonymous calls to 867-393-6210 if they observe infractions happening.

“We will be stepping up enforcement,” he said.

Johnston emphasized that First Nations governments are working with the CMOH.

He emphasized the importance of following public health orders and urged everyone — especially those between 12 and 17 — to get vaccinated.

“It is our responsibility to get our shot,” he said.

It was on June 15 that acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott declared the outbreak, highlighting a full 12 cases in one overnight period from June 14 to 15. Ten of those cases were in Whitehorse with two in rural communities and all cases linked to a previous Whitehorse case.

“It is now more important than ever to get vaccinated,” she said. “The science shows that our best shot at protection is full vaccination. We also protect ourselves and others by practicing the Safe 6 plus 1.”

The outbreak involves three groups: graduating Whitehorse high school students and close contacts; two classes at Elijah Smith Elementary School; and adults socializing at parties and in bars.

Positive cases range in age from 10 to 40 years old. All cases are most likely the Gamma (P.1) variant, though not all the recent cases have been confirmed as such.

“The events of the past 11 days are deeply concerning, we are seeing the effects of COVID-19 in a way we have not before seen in Yukon, and we are all touched by this in one way or another,” Elliott said.

As of June 14, 72 percent of eligible Yukon adults had received both vaccine doses.

– With files from Gabrielle Plonka

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