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Respiratory assessment centre in Whitehorse closes doors on advice of CMO

Screening for COVID-19 to be done at Whitehorse hospital, Yukon Communicable Disease Control instead
Signs on the door of the Yukon Convention Centre in downtown Whitehorse June 1 state that the territory’s respiratory assessment centre, which was set up to assess and test people for COVID-19, is now closed. The centre closed on May 31 due to low usage, with COVID-19 tests and assessments to be done at the Whitehorse General Hospital’s emergency room or the Yukon Communicable Disease Control centre. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

The respiratory assessment centre in downtown Whitehorse, originally set up to screen people for COVID-19, closed its doors on May 31 on the advice of the Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMO).

Patricia Living, a spokesperson with the CMO’s office, explained in an interview June 1 that the services provided at the centre will now be available at the Whitehorse General Hospital’s emergency department and Yukon Communicable Disease Control (YCDC) instead.

She said the centre was set up to provide a separate space for people who thought they had COVID-19. People who had travelled outside the territory or the country were referred there, alongside people who had symptoms of respiratory illness but hadn’t travel.

The centre was open for 70 days and saw 411 people get assessed. Of the 411, 225 were tested. Doctors and nurses were at the centre and would test based on the information provided by the patient.

She was not able to confirm if all 11 people that tested positive for COVID-19 had gone through the centre.

The number of people coming in for testing recently had dropped significantly, Living said, and the biggest bump in tests the centre saw recently was about five people. With these numbers being relatively small, she said, people can be accommodated without issue through the Whitehorse General Hospital or YCDC.

She explained that the late spring and summer months are not typically a time where there are a lot of cases of the flu or respiratory illnesses.

“It was determined that we actually don’t need to have (the centre) now,” Living said. “… Now with the numbers dropping, it makes a lot of sense to shutter it for now.”

Living said the centre could be reopened quickly later on if the coronavirus comes back in a second wave and the number of people needing to be screened goes up again.

“They could actually get it up in a day… we’ve got everything set up to make it happen,” she said, although she couldn’t confirm if the Yukon Convention Centre would house the facility again.

Living said she felt the centre worked well during its time in operation. She said social distancing practices were followed and the staff did quality work.

She recommended that anyone looking to get tested for COVID-19 call 811 first. From there, she advised people to get in touch with YCDC. If you have a fever, respiratory illness but no history of recent travel, she recommended calling 811 but also checking in with the emergency room.

Contact Gord Fortin at