Amid a COVID-19 outbreak which has touched all parts of the Yukon over the past month, the Yukon government has quickened testing and ramped up contact tracing in an effort to limit spread.
The outbreak has also led to renewed demand for first doses of the vaccine.
At a June 23 briefing, Premier Sandy Silver noted that the territory has seen more cases in the last 14 days than in the last 14 months.
Silver detailed an expanded testing regime including drive-up testing at the centre 6:30 to 9:30 pm each day. He also explained the contact-tracing program that is in place to notify those who have been in close contact with a potentially infectious person.
He also reiterated measures on the guidelines for the size of gatherings. He noted some people have not been following the safe six plus one, contributing to the current outbreak.
Despite present concerns, Silver said he hopes to see events this summer moving forward in a safe manner noting the importance of these for peoples’ mental health.
Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said there are not currently any plans to reimpose restrictions. He said they are not seeing transmission occurring through sports events or restaurants.
Although the organizers of several events have called them off in the face of the outbreak, he said his office is willing to work with organizers to find a way for events to proceed safely.
He acknowledged concerns about the spread of COVID-19 at summer camps and other events. He said reinforced screening would be in place for both campers and staff allowing children to enjoy the benefits safely.
Hanley said the explosive rise in cases will eventually level off.
The outbreak has seen a total of 144 cases this month. There are 103 active cases with three people hospitalized, including one in intensive care outside the territory.
He said that all those who have serious cases have not been vaccinated and of the 144 cases in the outbreak, 122 were not vaccinated. Eight per cent of cases were fully vaccinated. All but one vaccinated case has experienced mild to very mild symptoms.
Hanley said some of the cases have been youth under 17 but they have had mild cases.
Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill implored people to avoid visiting, parties and other gatherings. She also said that people are likely scared and feeling down making kindness especially important. She added that information on cases appearing locally has helped people take the outbreak seriously.
Hanley noted that the outbreak has also increased demand for first doses of the vaccine, with 900 first doses given in the past week alone. Across the territory, 82 per cent of eligible adults have received their first dose and 74 per cent are fully vaccinated.
All cases of the virus in this outbreak have been proven or presumed to be the Gamma (P.1) variant of the virus. Hanley said the number of variant cases speaks to the likelihood of the outbreak stemming from one introduction of the virus into the territory.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org