Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. André Corriveau provided an update on the COVID-19 situation in the Yukon on Nov. 17. (Government of Yukon/Facebook)

Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. André Corriveau provided an update on the COVID-19 situation in the Yukon on Nov. 17. (Government of Yukon/Facebook)

Yukon entering ‘circuit-breaker’ mode as case counts plateau

Rapid testing for elementary school students is under consideration, acting CMOH says

As the territory begins its first week of “circuit-breaker” restrictions, both Premier Sandy Silver and Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. André Corriveau urged people to be respectful to businesses.

Proof of vaccination is now required for a number of settings, including gyms, art galleries, restaurants and bars.

“These are temporary measures. We are not in a lockdown. These measures are to disrupt the rapid transmission that we are seeing,” Silver said. “These measures are important, they’re based on science, and they’re what we need to do to keep folks safe.”

Silver made it clear that the measures are a “circuit-breaker” and the hope is that they will bring down cases so things can reopen for the holidays on Dec. 3.

On Nov. 17, Silver said that people will be required to show proof of their double vaccination status.

The blue folding cards with vaccine information can be used until Nov. 30. After that date, Yukoners will be required to access and print off the official QR-code document.

An app that securely reads the QR-code is still in development.

“As we all adjust to these new measures I want to remind Yukoners to be patient and respectful, businesses and organizations, as they implement these important public health measures,” said Silver.

He acknowledged that there have been comments on social media criticizing businesses for complying with measures.

“We need to support each other to get through this, or else it will last even longer than anybody really wants it to,” he said.

Despite concern about many COVID-19 notices in Whitehorse schools, Corriveau said that most of these cases are being traced back to cases within families or communities and transmission within schools has been low.

Corriveau said the use of rapid tests for students is an “evolving discussion” within the chief medical office. Right now the GeneXpert rapid test is available for teachers, but there are concerns that using the technology too rapidly could be overwhelming.

Other forms of rapid testing, recently approved by Health Canada, could play a role in the future.

“The availability of rapid tests has only recently been approved in Canada and we’re trying to learn from other jurisdictions about if they’re using it and how it’s working. It’s an active file, but it’s not at the point where we’re ready to make recommendations to the government from our office, but more to follow for sure,” said Corriveau.

Silver said they have heard concerns from parents and are taking them seriously.

Corriveau said the majority of cases are among adults over the age of 18. Right now around 30 per cent of cases are children under 12, who are not able to be vaccinated. Cases are low among high school students.

“Only four per cent of our cases are in the high school population, who have been immunized in the summer, so it is showing a very good response to vaccines,” he said.

Silver confirmed that an eleventh person has died from COVID-19 in the territory. Corriveau said he would not confirm whether or not the person was vaccinated because it is considered private health information.

“This is very sad news and all of Yukon is grieving with you,” said Silver.

The state of emergency continues in the territory as widespread community transmission causes highly daily cases, currently around 30 per day.

As of Wednesday morning, there are 157 active cases with six people in hospital.

Corriveau said the vaccination rate has continued to rise and the curve of cases is beginning to plateau.

“​​It’s too early to tell at this point how effective things are. Usually, in my experience in other jurisdictions, it takes two or three weeks before the full impact,” said Corriveau. “We are keeping a close eye on our indicators.”

He said most of the community spread remains in Whitehorse, with a few small clusters in rural Yukon. There are two cases in Carcross, nine in Carmacks, two in Dawson, two in Mayo, five in Pelly Crossing, nine cases in Watson Lake and one in Faro.

A further cluster may be forthcoming in Teslin. People who participated in a hockey tournament in the community should self-monitor for symptoms.

The territory is also currently providing booster shots, and Corriveau said over 300 have been administered and the system is booking up quickly.

“They will be available for everyone who wants to get there,” he said. “We’re prioritizing appointments for people for the first and second doses, and then people who require the boosters. [Staff are] doing their best to accommodate everyone.”

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