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New case of COVID-19 in Whitehorse

CMO says this is the first locally-acquired case but not an example of community transmission
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gives a COVID-19 update during a press conference in Whitehorse on May 26. Hanley announced an individual in Whitehorse tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 7, bringing the total number of cases to 15, with 12 occuring in the territory and three occuring Outside. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

A Whitehorse resident has tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first locally-acquired case in the Yukon.

The infection is suspected to be connected to two travellers from Outside who tested positive after returning from Whitehorse and Dawson City between July 20 and July 22.

The government is still considering the new case indirect and travel-related, rather than a community transmission.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley said the person who tested positive for the virus is currently at home and recovering well from COVID-19.

“We need people, of course, to be aware and to be aware of symptoms and to stay calm. I said that we had expected to see cases as we lifted some of our restrictions. And this is what has happened,” Hanley said.

“We can still live with COVID. We will still be going to work. We will still be going to school. We will still play. And we will continue to strive for a balanced approach in reconciling our fight against COVID, with the healthiest possible way to live our lives,” he said.

Yukon Communicable Disease Control has begun contact tracing.

Hanley said contacts are being identified and contacted in Whitehorse and Dawson.

Whitehorse residents who have traveled to Dawson City since July 20, and who are experiencing any symptoms, should call YCDC directly, identify as having been in Dawson City during this time period and arrange to get tested.

People who may have been at Superstore in Whitehorse between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Aug. 1 or who attended the Sunday service at Sacred Heart Cathedral at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 2 should also monitor themselves for symptoms.

Hanley said no specific places are being identified in Dawson because public health is satisfied that there is “no risk to the public.”

Symptoms of COVID-19 listed in the release include fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, loss of sense of taste or smell, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle aches.

Hanley urged the continued use of the “safe six.” He said masks can be particularly helpful in indoor spaces where physical distancing is not always possible, but said the Yukon is not making them mandatory.

Hanley said there are also no new changes being considered for the current rules for who can enter the territory. Currently, residents from the British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut “bubble” are not required to self-isolate.

Alaska is implementing restrictions that will soon require visitors to present a recent negative COVID-19 test, but this isn’t being considered for the Yukon’s borders at this time, said Hanley.

The government has not revealed where the two travellers who tested positive for COVID-19 are from.

“We know that the more we open that valve and let people in, the higher the risk of importing COVID into the territory. We’re trying to open it enough so we have that good balance of being able to have more possibility of visitation, more flow of people, more flow of goods and a healthier overall approach to our society,” Hanley said.

“We predicted cases, we expected to see cases,” he said. “I’m just as confident as I was three days ago that we can do this, and we have built ourselves up for this.”

As of Aug. 6, there were 31 test results pending. Hanley said public health is continuing contact tracing and testing, and is prepared for the potential of more positive results over the next few days.

Contact Haley Ritchie at