Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon chief medical officer of health, updates media on the COVID-19 in the territory and the respiratory centre being set up at the convention centre during a press conference in Whitehorse on March 20. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Respiratory centre to open in downtown Whitehorse for COVID-19 assessments

Yukon’s chief health officer announced further measures to brace for virus March 20

The Yukon government moving to centralize COVID-19 assessments by setting up a respiratory centre in downtown Whitehorse.

On March 20, Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, said that “we’re still in a good position and preparations are ongoing.”

“We are not in lockdown,” he said. “Society needs to work as well as possible. This is a time of preparation, of not shutting down.”

Pauline Frost, minister of the Department of Health and Social Services, said that there continues to be no cases in the Yukon, adding that eventually things will return to normal.

The respiratory centre is to open at the convention centre, part of High Coast Country Inn, in the “coming days,” Frost said, in a bid to increase assessment services. People with flu-like symptoms and respiratory illnesses, especially if they have travelled recently, will be tended to.

The centre is not a drop-in. The first point of contact will be by calling 811.

It is to be staffed by nurses, doctors and support staff, according to a news release.

More measures were revealed at the announcement, including the suspension of non-urgent medical procedures at the territory’s hospitals beginning March 23. These, Hanley said, are to be rescheduled. Emergency procedures will be unaffected.

Visitors are barred from the territory’s three hospitals, with limited exceptions.

Childcare centres will not close, Hanley said. However, these places have seen a reduction in the number of children recently. Not all parents can look after kids, Hanley continued, that’s why some centres are staying open.

Receiving tests from a British Columbia lab has been a central focus in the last week, with the Yukon Party grilling the Liberals regarding delays in getting them back, along with their plans to mitigate the issue.

Hanley has previously said it takes between three to five days to have tests returned to the Yukon. A cabinet spokesperson confirmed to the News earlier this week that it can take upwards two days longer.

On March 20, Hanley said the backlog has been “largely fixed,” and the government is to roll out weekly test updates, available on its website.

Roughly 100 tests came back to the Yukon on March 19, all of which are negative, according to Hanley.

Yukoners are being asked to call 811 if they are exhibiting symptoms. The Yukon government has put together an assessment tool that can be found here: yukon.ca/COVID-19

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

See more of the News’ coverage on the Yukon and COVID-19 here

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