WHITEHORSE – The Yukon has been knocked off its pedestal as it faces a surge of COVID-19 cases, says the territory’s top doctor.
Dr Brendan Hanley said there have been more cases in the Yukon in the past 14 days than in the first 14 months of the pandemic.
“For many months, almost like on a pedestal, with our zero active cases and high vaccination rates, all eyes in Canada were on us,” he said at a press conference Wednesday.
“And now the same eyes are on us for a very different reason. A highly vaccinated territory suffers the largest epidemic since the start of COVID-19. “
The coming weeks will determine the future of the Yukon and help other jurisdictions learn how to handle an outbreak in a highly vaccinated population, he said.
The territory reported one more death and four new infections on Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases to 103.
Of the total of 144 cases from the latest outbreak, he said 122 of them were unvaccinated people between the ages of one and 90.
The new infections show that a 72% vaccination rate is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that at least 80% of the population should receive their vaccines, he said.
The current outbreak, fueled by the more transmissible Gamma variant first detected in Brazil, is linked to high school graduation events, two classes at an elementary school, and several groups that have come together to at bush and house parties, and in bars, Hanley said.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said law enforcement will be stepped up to try to ensure compliance with COVID-19 measures as infections continue to rise, but no new restrictions will be introduced.
Hanley said people might feel anxious as cases increase, but the territory’s response will be to deal with the outbreak, not to lock doors and borders, or to retreat to their homes out of fear.
“Epidemics will continue to be part of our new normal. The vaccine allowed us to start this difficult and difficult transition from the pandemic to the endemic. In making this change, we need to adjust our approach in how we predict, manage and control outbreaks. “
There is “no safe approach” to distinguishing between epidemics and introducing more restrictions, which can lead to mental health issues, Hanley said.
“Look at the suicide. Look at the addictions and how the addictions got worse. Look at alcohol-related injuries, look at opioids. Do not think that there are no consequences for the public health restrictions. “
This outbreak is likely linked to a case introduced around Victoria Day and it spread with rallies in June, although it is unclear when and who the first infection was, he said. .
“I would be very surprised if we ever found a source,” Hanley said. “Usually we don’t. “
There is usually a gap between the introduction of infection and detection, he said.
“You can’t put together enough information to get this story and this person is no longer waving a flag saying they have COVID. “
– By Hina Alam in Vancouver
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 23, 2021.