Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media about the fifth case of COVID-19 to appear in the territory during press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Fifth COVID-19 case hits the Yukon

An individual tested positive over the weekend

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the Yukon has climbed to five, according to the chief medical officer of health.

Another individual tested positive for the virus on March 28, said Dr. Brendan Hanley during an announcement on March 30. That person is doing well at home, he added, along with the four others.

Focus has shifted to managing clusters.

“Four of the cases are related to one cluster. We may have one or two cases related to that cluster,” Hanley said. “Everyone is doing well. No one has had to seek health care and we’re expecting that to continue.”

Someone who tested positive for COVID-19 was believed to present at a local dentist and church earlier this month. Hanley said some results have come back negative for those thought to have been in these spaces.

“I’m happy with these numbers and the results of these investigations,” he said. “And I feel the risk to the public related is very low.”

He said maintaining social distancing and frequent hand washing will ensure protection for the most vulnerable people. He noted the social distancing may not prevent the influx but it will prevent the spread.

“Let’s not underestimate how brutal a war this could be if we let down our defenses. When COVID tries to make its way in, we must not only flatten that curve, we need to beat it to the ground,” he said.

Social distancing and store closures could continue for months, Hanley added.

“We don’t know the answer. If you relax too early, you could invite a second wave,” he said.

“COVID, uncontrolled, would overwhelm our health care system, just as it has in so many other parts of the world. COVID will not behave differently here than anywhere else.”

Much attention centred on a Quebec couple who drove to Whitehorse and then travelled to Old Crow by air, the news of which began circulating on social media over the weekend.

“These people, while misguided, they didn’t contravene any order,” Hanley said. “They have now been provided with appropriate guidance, so that they can better play their role in preventing COVID-19.”

Because orders weren’t violated, they won’t be charged, he added.

“The order, as it stands, is for visitors or travellers to Yukon to self-isolate, but it also allows people to reach a safe place (for) isolation. Of course it was not intended in this case to be Old Crow.”

There are supports available for those who need to access to a safe place to self-isolate, Hanley said.

“There’s always going to be a gap when the order is made and then a catch-up, what I call reinforcement measures, so of course there are going to be stragglers, there are going to be leaks.”

He said the couple is now self-isolating. Asked where they are, he said, “I don’t follow their specific details, nor is that public information.”

Hanley said it stands as an example of “reinforcing measures already in place.” This means better communication and education, with enforcement at the end. Hanley said this work is being done to ensure there are greeters at the airport.

“To me, this is a very human story. It’s a story of two people who were afraid, who wanted to seek refuge and who felt they were going to a safe place.”

Written permission is now required by Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in order to enter its traditional territory, according to CBC.

Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com