Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, announces the territory’s first two cases of COVID-19 during a press conference in Whitehorse on March 22, 2020. Hanley announced the territory’s third case on March 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

UPDATED: Third COVID-19 case confirmed in the Yukon

The Yukon’s chief medical officer of health confirmed a third case the morning of March 25

A third case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Yukon.

The Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, made the announcement during a press conference the morning of March 25.

The person had travelled within Canada before returning to the Yukon and was tested March 23, with the results returned within 48 hours.

Hanley said the person is “thankfully doing well” and recovering while staying in self-isolation.

Contract tracing is underway, he added.

Hanley noted that this is a high time to adhere to rules laid out the recently. Travellers returning from domestic or international destinations are required to self-isolate for 14 days. If contact is made with someone who tested positive for the virus, isolation is being recommended. Monitoring of symptoms is advised.

“Self-isolation is no joke,” Hanley said. “You cannot go grocery shopping, you cannot mingle, you cannot share a bathroom.”

Social distancing is recommended for the general population. Hanley said this doesn’t mean you can’t meet people. If you do, keeping a distance of two metres apart is necessary. Routine exercise and staying in touch with family and friends are hugely important, he said, and will see people through this.

“Remember to savour small pleasures and moments. We need to keep our brains active, and this could be a really good time to learn a new skill or pick up an old one,” Hanley said.

Pauline Frost, minister of the Department of Health and Social Services, said that residents and business owners are “extremely emotional” right now.

“(I) just urge you all to be patient with one another and work together,” she said. “Now is the time for all Yukoners to take the situation very seriously.”

Hospitals are suspending non-urgent care — including blood work, lab tests, X-Rays — on March 26. Emergency care is set to continue.

“These measures are additional measures to help the hospitals ensure capacity to respond to the needs of the pandemic and ensure that only those who crucially need to be in the hospital are in the hospital,” Hanely said. “They also help to support the social measures to stop the spread of COVID or limit the spread, practicing physical distancing from each other.”

The Yukon government is extending health care insurance in order to cover residents who can’t return to the territory.

“The usual requirement to be resident in Yukon for at least 180 days to qualify for health care insurance will be waived,” Hanley said.

The downtown respiratory assessment centre has been open for three days, Hanley said. The Yukon government formally announced it was open on March 24. Seniors are able to get assessed from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; hours for those with a referral are between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. It doesn’t accept drop-ins.

In order to access services there, referrals are required, whether by calling 811, through a physician or an emergency department.

Hanley said there is no curve to bend in the Yukon yet.

“If we continue to maintain and improve social spacing and adhere to self-isolation, then we do have a very good chance to bend that curve. By active case finding, public health contact tracing, we can delay community transmission as long as possible and quite possibly prevent it.”

Locking down the Yukon could make matters worse, he said.

“Let’s not underestimate the effects of shutting down, even to the extent that we already have, and let’s not pretend that similar to wartime we will already not be facing a potential for months to years of recovery ahead.

“Seeing the epidemic move closer is scary, but if you’re doing what you need to do for now, social spacing, having a reasonable supply of essentials, doing social isolation when you’re required to, this is our greatest weapon for this war. Let fear not inform our response to this epidemic. A calm, careful, evidence-based approach is the better guide to both.”

Hanely urged Yukoners to help one another, for the collective benefit.

“Be kind to be people, look after each other. If you’re getting stressed by COVID, take a COVID day off,” he said, suggesting that constantly watching the latest statistics and analyses roll in can be mentally taxing.

With files from Jackie Hong

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

See more coverage on COVID-19 and the Yukon here.

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