Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announces 10 new COVID-19 cases in the Yukon during his weekly update on July 7. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announces 10 new COVID-19 cases in the Yukon during his weekly update on July 7. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Officials urge use of sick days for mild symptoms as COVID-19 case count continues to rise

The current outbreak is expected to last for additional weeks

Despite a high vaccination rate, Yukon now has the highest per capita rate of COVID-19 cases in Canada.

During a weekly COVID-19 update on July 7, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley confirmed 10 new cases in the territory.

This brings the active case count to 147 with reported recoveries. As of yesterday, seven people have been medivaced outside the territory, and six remain in southern hospitals. An additional 12 people are in hospital in Whitehorse.

Hanley warned that in all likelihood there are many other cases in the territory that have not been identified. He said up to a quarter of current cases are difficult to trace.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a time to celebrate, because our time with COVID-19 is far from over,” Hanley said.

Hanley said 11 per cent of the Yukon’s cases are fully vaccinated people, but the trend is older people or those with other health complications. Chance of hospitalization, death and severe illness is much lower in vaccinated individuals.

Both Hanley and Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee emphasized that people need to following public health advice, assume risk of COVID-19 in interactions, get vaccinated, only gather in small groups of six or less and be tested if they see symptoms of allergies.

“We’re all affected by this, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated. So we need to band together, follow the guidance, and keep our efforts on protecting this community of ours,” Hanley said.

“Yukoners, like all Canadians, are feeling frustrated and tired. It is particularly frustrating here in the Yukon because we were so close to lifting our restrictions,” McPhee said. “Doing your part does not need to be complicated. Get vaccinated. Stay home if you have symptoms and get tested. Wear your mask. Practise social distancing. Only gather in small groups of six people at a time.”

McPhee said individuals working with COVID-19 symptoms has contributed to recent spread. She said even minor symptoms — including cough, muscle aches, runny nose or a sore throat — necessitate staying home and getting a test.

“The threshold for testing should be very low, because we really want to find people with symptoms,” Hanley said.

He said the outbreak is expected to continue for weeks — and possibly months — if transmission is not brought under control.

Spread in vulnerable populations

Hanley and McPhee noted that the virus is spreading rapidly through Whitehorse’s most vulnerable population, particularly those lacking in stable housing, who are lacking the “socio-economic support” to effectively self-isolate.

Hanley said more support is being offered to help people cope with difficult isolation situations.

Some individuals staying in hotels or the emergency shelter, for example, may be used to spending time outside and gathering with friends. In addition many individuals need access to alcohol and tobacco to manage addictions, or just human contact and comforts like favourite food and drinks.

“One of the key things, as well, is needing companionship or needing a human face,” said Hanley. He said caseworkers and social workers familiar with clients have been able to provide some support.

Support from Ontario

Hanley said health professionals coming to the Yukon from Ontario have been met with smiles and even “tears of relief” from the overwhelmed teams of nurses and other health care professionals in the territory.

There are 11 additional health care staff in the territory thanks to individuals who came forward as well as the Canadian Red Cross, Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health and Leeds Grenville and Lanark District Public Health.

There is one additional individual set to arrive soon from Kingston, Frontenac Lennox and Addington Public Health as well.

Hanley said the wave of COVID-19 cases has created a “serious strain on our hospitals.”

Rapid testing and rural vaccine clinics

Rapid response testing teams have been dispatched to Old Crow and Mayo. The clinic is taking place in Mayo on Wednesday, July 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at J.V. Clark School.

Testing clinics in Old Crow will take place July 7, 8 and 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Chief Zzeh Gittlit School.

Anyone experiencing symptoms in Whitehorse should call the COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre at 867-393-3083 or book online to arrange for testing. Drive-up testing is available in Whitehorse at the CTAC from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily at 49A Waterfront Place.

People in communities should contact their rural community health centre.

Community vaccine clinics are returning to Carmacks, Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Dawson City, Old Crow and Teslin this week.

Contact Haley Ritchie at