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Secondary testing rules out presumptive COVID-19 case

Testing in southern labs resulted in a negative final result
Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The “probable” case of COVID-19 announced Oct. 10 has been declared a false positive. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

The “probable” case of COVID-19 announced Oct. 10 has been declared a false positive.

“We can be confident that this person did not have an active infection in Yukon and is not contagious and could not have introduced any infection into Yukon. This is therefore not counted as a case of COVID infection,” said Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, during a mid-week COVID-19 update on Oct. 14.

The individual was tested using a Genexpert rapid analyzer in the Whitehorse General Hospital, which was introduced weeks ago.

Secondary testing in southern labs resulted in a negative final result.

“The Genexpert testing tool is a relatively new tool in our COVID toolbox and our current process with the Genexpert is that tests require validation,” Hanley said.

“We announced it as a probable case, while awaiting confirmation from B.C., knowing that we may need to wait a day or two before getting those results. As it turns out, the person who tested as a possible positive on the Genexpert machine has tested negative on follow up testing at our referral labs, both St. Paul’s (Hospital) and B.C. CDC labs,” he said.

Hanley said the first test result was a puzzle for medical staff, who eventually concluded that the Genexpert tester is so sensitive it was either a false positive or it is able to pick up on trace amounts of virus from a previous exposure that do not pose any contagion risk.

He said the tool is still useful and would be extremely helpful in an outbreak situation.

The individual was tested after returning from travel Outside with symptoms.

Despite the false test, both Hanley and Premier Sandy Silver cautioned against rumours and speculation when it comes to the identity of people being tested or deemed probable cases.

Hanley said testing turnaround times — despite occasional periods of delay — are remaining consistently between two to three days.

From Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, there have been 93 people at the COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre in Whitehorse. The COVID-19 case count for territory remains at 15, with all cases recovered. In total 3,635 people have been tested since the start of the pandemic.

Hanley said as people consider booking holiday travel plans over December they should carefully consider plans for minimizing risk when travelling in provinces with high COVID-19 activity and isolating when they return.

“I think it’s something to really think about carefully,” Hanley said.

“Maybe think of what the alternatives are, think of perhaps future opportunities when we will – hopefully not too long – get to a point where we can much more freely travel and unify families. But sometimes they are very compelling reasons to travel. It might be special anniversaries or seeing someone that may not have too much time left or compassionate reasons, so really, all of this has to be weighed into that decision,” he said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at