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New Whitehorse COVID-19 case is unrelated to Watson Lake cluster, officials say

Chief medical officer of health says avoid indoor Halloween parties, monitor for symptoms
Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Aug. 26. Hanley said the source of the outbreak in Watson Lake may not ever be found, but contact tracing in the community continues. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

Yukon officials have identified an additional case of COVID-19, unrelated to the Watson Lake cluster.

Laboratory results confirmed the positive diagnosis on the night of Oct. 28. Contact tracing has been completed and Yukon health says there is no risk of public exposure.

The person had both travelled recently and had a contact history with the two most recent Whitehorse cases, so they were self-isolating and are now recovering at home. The new case was identified through contact tracing.

The most recent COVID-19 cases in Whitehorse were two people with a travel history outside the territory, announced Oct. 19. Those two people were reportedly self-isolating at home when they began having symptoms.

As a result of the new diagnosis, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley is again reminding Yukoners to stay home from work or school and get tested if they have symptoms.

Earlier in the week, during the regular COVID-19 update, Hanley said the source of the outbreak in Watson Lake that resulted in five positive cases may not ever be found, but contact tracing in the community continues.

In total, five people from two different families are now recovering in self-isolation at home in Watson Lake. None of the five individuals that have tested positive for COVID-19 had recently left the territory.

“We would like to find the source. But it is also possible that we will not find how this particular COVID infection entered the territory,” Hanley said.

“Given that we have tested a lot of people with symptoms around the Yukon in the last few days, I think we can say with some confidence that we are not finding evidence of ongoing transmission,” he said.

Residents of Watson Lake are still being asked to continue monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and get testing if needed, particularly if they were in any of the designated spots linked to a recent outbreak.

The Big Horn Motel, one of three places in Watson Lake the government said public transmission may have occurred, has temporarily closed “for logistical reasons” according to Hanley.

The Yukon’s head doctor also suggested being cautious about Halloween parties over the weekend.

While trick-or-treaters have been given the green light, as long as they stay in their social bubble and have no symptoms of illness, adults need to remain under 10 people for indoor events.

Hanley said the recent cluster in Watson Lake is a reminder to follow the safe six, particularly staying home from work when sick, wearing a mask when unable to physically distance and taking actions to protect others.

He emphasized how serious the consequences could be if this isn’t done.

“Everywhere down south we’re seeing social gatherings, weddings and funerals as causes of ongoing transmission leading to outbreaks and to more vulnerable people getting infected. So we must keep gatherings small. That is not a suggestion, but an order,” he said.

“If you work, go shopping, go to school or play sports with others while you’re sick, you could be responsible for an outbreak. You could be responsible for people getting sick, going to a hospital, being medevacked out or dying from COVID.

“You could lead to services, workplaces or communities being shut down. You could cause an outbreak that could overwhelm public health. All of these are very real possibilities,” Hanley said.

Hanley also reiterated that Yukoners should follow the lead of businesses that ask that masks be worn in their facilities.

“If you cannot physically distance due to temporary crowds or poor spacing, put on a mask,” Hanley said. “Wearing a mask is good pandemic etiquette, and shows that you care. Respect store or workplace policies that ask you to put on a mask. Do the right thing and show that you’re being responsible and that you care for others.”

The Yukon has had a total of 23 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Contact Haley Ritchie at