Yukon is at a pivotal point in the pandemic, testing the limits of its health care system, and seeking help according to Health Secretary Tracy McVeigh.
The district has reached out to the federal government and other jurisdictions for help as it fights what McVeigh calls “widespread community transmission.”
“The current wave is the biggest challenge we have faced so far, and we all need to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” McVeigh said Wednesday during a media update.
According to a news release issued Wednesday evening, 15 new cases were reported in the territory between Tuesday and Wednesday — seven in Whitehorse and eight in other communities. There are now 134 active cases in the Yukon.
Medical Director of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley said the territory is asking for additional staff, including nurses and social workers, to help with contact tracing and logistical support.
“Everyone is tired, and we are tired,” Hanley said.
Did you miss the update? Watch it here:
McPhee said seven nurses are on their way from Ontario.
The update comes a day after the territory announced its fifth COVID-19-related death — its third in just over two weeks.
Despite having the highest vaccination rate in Canada – with more than 60 percent of the entire population fully vaccinated – the territory is dealing with what Hanley described as a first “real wave” from COVID-19.
“Right now, the probability of contracting this virus is as high as it has ever been in the Yukon,” he said.
Rapid response teams have been dispatched to Carmacks and Pelly Crossing to provide temporary support to community health center staff. Hanley said working closely with Yukon communities is a priority to reduce the spread of the disease.
He continued, 82 percent of cases are in unvaccinated people. He said 12 percent have been fully vaccinated, but have mild symptoms.
Since June 1, 16 people have been hospitalized, and eight are still there. Three of those cases were sent to the south for further treatment.
In general, cases range from people between the ages of 1 and 90 years. The highest number of cases is in the 10 to 19 age group, and the second highest number is in the 20 to 29 age group.
Fifty-one cases tested positive for the gamma variant.
“Not the summer we were planning on”
The outbreak has led to a tightening of restrictions in Whitehorse emergency shelter, and prompted First Nation in Selkirk at Bailey Pass to erect roadblocks to discourage people from entering.
A public notice was issued Tuesday to anyone who was at Hotel 98 in Whitehorse between June 19 and 27, and the city’s Bambinos Bilingual Montessori Daycare is closed.
Hanley asked parents to keep their children home from daycare for the next two weeks, if possible.
Residents were also asked to consider postponing or reducing any events. He recommends that gatherings be limited to 10 people indoors with masks and 20 people outdoors with physical distances, but he strongly encourages gatherings of no more than six people.
“We need to hold together so we can breathe, get the reinforcements in place and start bending the curve over the next few weeks. I’m asking you to do everything you can to minimize contact with others,” he said.
“This is not the summer we were planning on.”