Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)

Yukon government requests outside help as COVID-19 outbreak continues

Assistance is on its way as Yukoners are asked to limit gatherings

In a June 30 update on the state of the present COVID-19 outbreak, Yukon government representatives expressed the severity of the current outbreak, which is pushing the territory’s healthcare system to its limits.

Officials have called the outbreak the first real wave of COVID-19 the territory has experienced. It has led them to seek assistance from the federal government and from other provinces and territories.

“The current wave is testing the limits of our public healthcare system,” said Minister of Health and Social Services Tracy-Anne McPhee at the June 30 update.

“This is not where anybody wants to be, but you don’t get to choose when and where a pandemic strikes.”

With 10 or more new cases each day, McPhee said widespread community transmission has left health resources stretched and struggling to trace specific sources.

She said the Yukon is seeking assistance from the federal government and from other provinces and territories. The response from outside government has been very positive, she said. Seven nurses from Ontario are already on the way.

“Right now the risk of getting this virus is as high as it has ever been in Yukon,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley.

McPhee said vaccines provide the best level of protection available and there are ample vaccines for everyone who wants one. This includes youth 12-17, with a full round of youth vaccination clinics already done in the communities and a second round is underway.

She noted that over 76 per cent of the eligible population has now received both shots and that while the current wave is serious, she shudders to think what would have happened if less people were immunized.

McPhee and Hanley both expressed condolences for the family and loved ones of a Yukoner who recently died due to COVID-19.

Hanley said there have been 260 confirmed cases and a further three probable ones since the beginning of the June outbreak.

Unvaccinated people make up 82 per cent of cases. Fully vaccinated people make up 12 per cent of cases and are experiencing less severe illness when they do catch the virus.

Nine people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, eight of them in Whitehorse.

McPhee said casual social gatherings are spreading the virus and reiterated the government’s appeals to limit gatherings to six people, as large gatherings are making it difficult to contain transmission.

Cases are currently clustering among younger people within the 10-19 and 20-29 age groups. Officials said this is likely driven by gatherings including the graduation parties earlier this month. An outbreak in a daycare with 18 cases is also driving the total cases among young people but Hanley said the outcomes of illness among the young remain good. The daycare in question, Bambinos Bilingual Montessori Daycare, will remain closed until July 9.

Parents are currently asked to keep their children home from daycare if possible in order to help the centres respond to the virus and to ensure there are care spaces available for the children of essential workers.

COVID cases have been documented across the territory and Hanley and McPhee praised the work of community governments and the nurses in community nursing stations which has helped keep the case totals in the small communities low. Hanley said they are working to tailor plans to each community’s particular risk factors and McPhee noted that support, including recent COVID testing team visits to Carmacks and Pelly crossing has been provided.

At the June 30 briefing, it was announced that the government would be publishing case totals by community twice a week on their website.

Contact Jim Elliot at