Photo by Whitehorse Star
Dr. Brendan Hanley
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Dr. Brendan Hanley
There are five new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake, and a public health notification has been issued at three locations in the community.
Dr. Brendan Hanley, the territory’s chief medical officer, announced three cases late Friday afternoon. Two more cases were confirmed this morning.
The individuals have not travelled outside the Yukon and likely contracted the disease in Watson Lake.
“We don’t have enough information to determine the source of the infection,” Hanley said of the first three cases on Friday.
“We expect to be in a better position to estimate the source of infection after a few days of ongoing investigation.”
A public health notification warning of possible exposure was issued for three Watson Lake locations on Friday:
• Watson Lake Foods – Super A on Oct. 8 and Oct. 16;
• Home Hardware on Oct. 7 and Oct. 10;
• Big Horn Motel on Oct. 7-9 and Oct. 13-16.
Individuals who were at those locations on those dates have been instructed to monitor themselves for symptoms.
The latest two cases had direct exposure in one or more of those sites, according to Pat Living, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services.
All five individuals are self-isolating and recovering at home. Contact investigations and testing of symptomatic contacts are underway.
“Further positive cases may be found as a result of this cluster,” Living said in an email this morning.
The first three cases and ensuing two cases represent two household clusters.
Hanley said Friday the first three cases were untraceable to a known source.
“It’s quite possible there was inadvertent contact with someone from outside Yukon,” Hanley said.
“The key to continuing in containment mode, like we’re doing, is prompt identification of cases.”
The three locations flagged in Watson Lake are now safe to visit, as the potential exposure is a result of possible “person-to-person transmission” and not associated with the locations themselves, Hanley said.
The border reopening necessitated some risk of occasional case importation, the chief medical officer said.
“I don’t see any change in that overall risk assessment, given that we know there’s always that ongoing chance of seeing importation events,” Hanley said.
“What we want to do is try to minimize the impact of any particular importation.”
Patti McLeod, the Yukon Party MLA for Watson Lake, said this morning she was in the community over the weekend and noted some uneasiness among locals.
“There’s some nervousness that’s around town,” McLeod told the Star.
“What we need to do, of course, is be calm and let the public health officials do their work.”
She said some Watson Lakers have been expressing their anxieties over social media.
“Other citizens are weighing in on the discussion, I guess, and calming folks down, and reminding them that we’re all in this together.”
McLeod said some locals are calling for a reinstatement of border restrictions with B.C. – lifted in July – in light of the new cases, though there are voices “on both sides of the question.”
Hanley has previously said he would not share locations of community COVID-19 cases, to protect the privacy of individuals and avoid animosity in those communities.
This community was revealed to host COVID-19 cases because of the public health advisories and lack of a traceable infection source, Hanley explained.
McLeod said it’s preferable for members of the community to have that information.
“I think, as Yukoners, we like to know what community the events are occurring in so we can monitor (ourselves) accordingly,” McLeod said.
The southeast Yukon community is uniting during this challenging time, the MLA said.
“Watson Lake is doing what Watson Lake does – which is pulling together as a community and offering support to those people.”
The territory has had 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began earlier this year.
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