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COVID-19 plan based on symptomatic spread: Yukon guidance document

Yukon’s guidance document aims for risk mitigation while assuming most COVID-19 cases are symptomatic
Crumpled tissue is seen on Aug. 3, 2022. Fifteen per cent of people infected with COVID-19 do not show symptoms, according to the Yukon’s latest guidance document. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

The Yukon is operating under the assumption that COVID-19 is primarily spread while a person is showing symptoms.

The territory’s own interim guidance on public health management of cases and contacts in the community cites research that indicates 15 per cent of infected people do not show symptoms.

According to the guidance document, which is dated June 8, up to 36 per cent of children are asymptomatic, and people over the age of 65 and those with medical conditions may have atypical presentations.

The document is intended to be aligned with the goal of risk mitigation.

In an interview on Aug. 4, Justin Lemphers, vice president of the Yukon Employees’ Union, told the News the territorial government appears to be recognizing some of the change in the evolution of the understanding of COVID-19, but isn’t necessarily following through on it.

“They’re cherry-picking what they’re choosing to recognize,” Lemphers said.

“The action or mitigation that they put in place may refer to the source information that they’ve chosen to recognize, but not actually act on it.”

The guidance document indicates the length of time between exposure to infection and the first sign of symptoms ranges from two to 14 days.

With the Omicron variant of concern being the most dominant strain in the territory at the time of the document’s release, people may be experiencing a shorter incubation period with a median of three days and ranging from zero to eight days.

In the document, the period of communicability depends on the level of immune compromise and severity of symptoms.

“Live viral shedding may occur for longer in those with illness of greater severity (for example, admitted to hospital directly due to COVID-19) and those who are severely immunocompromised, and the period of communicability may extend to 20 days after onset of symptoms in these groups,” it reads.

“For a small number of individuals within these groups (approximately two per cent), live viral shedding may extend beyond 20 days, with the maximum known duration being 32 days.”

The document cites a recent Public Health Agency of Canada review that indicates the time to reinfection can vary from 15 days to more than 220 days, while the median time to reinfection falls between approximately 60 to 80 days.

In the document, a lot remains unknown about reinfection.

“As stated by the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines, the relationship between antibody levels and the level of protection against reinfection remains undetermined, as well as the role of cellular immunity in preventing reinfection (including cross-protective immunity) following exposure to common coronaviruses,” the document notes.

“Most studies conclude that the vast majority of individuals with prior infection are at very low risk of reinfection in the first six months, and likely protected for longer.”

The document goes on to say there are too few cases to determine the clinical presentation in a reinfection and how it may differ.

“To date, there has not been any evidence of antibody-dependent disease enhancement observed. As serological testing for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies becomes more widely available, the results are expected to provide further insight into the questions on reinfection and the duration of immunity.”

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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