Yukoners are being asked to be cautious with holiday gatherings as the Omicron variant becomes the dominant strain in different areas.
“It’s also important to take precautions as you’ve gathered with friends and family. Our case count has stabilized, which is great, but we still have active cases in the territory,” said Premier Sandy Silver. “We know this variant spreads very quickly and we need to take it very seriously. We need to be very careful during the holiday season to limit spread as much as possible.”
As of Dec. 15 the current case count across the Yukon is 52 active cases, with no Omicron. Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott said cases have stabilized and the territory is able to manage the current caseload.
On Dec. 13, the Yukon government reported a COVID-19 outbreak at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Elliott said the situation is contained.
A rapid-response team is mobilizing and heading up to Old Crow, said Silver, in light of a cluster of new cases.
“What we do now, really matters,” said Elliott. She said the safe six remains important, including staying home when sick, washing hands, limiting travel and social group sizes. She again encouraged everyone to get vaccinated if they are eligible.
Elliott said the sacrifices of the public have made a difference in the territory. She used a wildfire metaphor to explain that the Omicron strain is more transmissible than Delta. She said that while more information is being gathered, the vaccines may not be as effective against Omicron, although they are still an important tool in preventing severe illness.
“We can manage this by using our COVID sense,” said Elliott. “I’m asking you to carefully plan your activities outside of your home, have your mask and your hand sanitizer. Please stay home if you are sick, even with a little sniffle.”
“People are going to have to make some difficult decisions about celebrations,” said Elliott, urging respect for people’s decisions.
On Dec. 14 the chief medical officer sent out new recommendations on travel outside the territory. The new advice instructs Yukoners to follow federal guidance prior to any international travel and to use caution when deciding to travel domestically.
“Many Yukoners are looking forward to traveling over the coming holidays. While I recognize modifying your travel plans would be disappointing, taking this action now will protect yourself and those around you from the spread of this variant,” said Elliott in a statement.
Booster shots for adults over 18 have already begun. Silver said more appointments will be opening up in the coming days and all eligible adults will be able to get the shot before the end of January.
As of Dec. 14, Silver said 94.5 per cent of Yukon government employees have attested to receiving their first shot. Out of the remainder, 1.5 per cent, or 90 people, are full-time employees while the rest are casual or on-call employees.
“We want to continue with the efforts to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” said Elliott.
She said that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is available for people with medical conflicts to the Moderna vaccine.
Silver said appointments will be accelerated for those affected by the vaccine mandate. If people are having trouble booking online they can call 1-877-374-0425 to be prioritized.
Contact Haley Ritchie at email@example.com