Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on April 1. Hanley announced on April 24 the expansion of testing criteria to include a number of new symptoms as well as those with respiratory symptoms who have not travelled. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Scope of COVID-19 testing to expand in the Yukon as positive test results hold steady

The number of active COVID-19 cases in the Yukon remains at three

The Yukon is changing its COVID-19 testing criteria to allow the casting of a wider net.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, the territory’s chief medical officer of health, announced the changes during a press conference on April 24.

The new testing criteria will come into effect on April 27, meaning testing will be available for individuals experiencing a wider array of symptoms. Hanley said these new symptoms include fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat or hoarse voice, headache, runny nose or nasal congestion, unexplained vomiting or diarrhea, fatigue, muscle aches, and loss of smell or taste.

He added that the focus will be on people who have respiratory issues but who have not travelled and are not linked to existing cases, and therefore would not meet current criteria to be tested.

“These are the people we’ve been looking for,” Hanley said.

Now, those without history of travel outside the territory will meet the threshold for testing if they have cough, fever or difficulty breathing.

Hanley explained that the testing is being broadened because as flu season ends, less people are being tested in the Yukon for both influenza and COVID-19 — those tested for influenza in the Yukon have also been tested for COVID-19. The broadening of test criteria is to try to maintain a high per capita testing rate and also detect COVID-19 earlier.

Doctors in the territory continue to hold — and have always held — the authority to order tests for patients regardless of current testing criteria, Hanley added.

On the possible relaxation of orders and re-opening of the economy, Hanley said the territorial government is developing a plan. He was not able to provide many details but said the plan would be viewed with a focus on public health and strong consideration of economic factors as well.

“All will be part of a public health lens,” Hanley said.

He added that the public health focus would also include the health risks to the general population from keeping the orders stringent for too long.

As of 2:40 p.m. on April 24, a total of 888 people have been tested for COVID-19 in the Yukon. Eleven people have tested positive for COVID-19 and eight of those cases are considered recovered. There are 17 tests pending results.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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