COVID-19 outbreak in Yukon Territory linked to high school students and unvaccinated adults

The Yukon River in Whitehorse. (Creative Commons photo by Gareth Sloan)

The COVID-19 outbreak in the Yukon Territory fell from 18 to 21 active cases on Monday. And this despite the fact that nearly three quarters of the adult population of the territory are fully vaccinated. And while life in Skagway seems to be returning to normal for the most part, the growing number of cases is disrupting daily life across the border.

Whitehorse, the largest city in the Yukon, is about 110 miles north of Skagway. With the international border between Canada and the United States remaining closed to all but essential traffic, many in the small border town of Skagway dream of visiting its nearest road-accessible neighbor for groceries, hot springs and more. again.

However, this weekend, cases of COVID-19 in the Yukon increased. New cases have been reported in Whitehorse as well as in smaller communities like Burwash Landing and Carcross.

Yukon Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott informed reporters on Monday of a new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus.

“This is an outbreak of the gamma variant of COVID-19, which is a worrying variant that was first recognized in Japan, among people traveling from Brazil,” Elliott said.

Although most cases in the Yukon are in high school students and unvaccinated adults, at least one fully vaccinated individual in Whitehorse has been reported infected. But Elliott said it was rare.

“The times we see these rare and unusual cases of breakthrough are prolonged close contact of the type that you have in a household or with a sweetheart or with your, you know, your best friends,” Elliott said.

Additionally, Elliott confirmed that symptoms are less severe in fully vaccinated people, and the risk of hospitalization and death is much lower.

This will certainly be reassuring news for residents of Skagway who fear that welcoming visitors to Lower 48 could expose them to COVID-19. The first cruise ship to land at Skagway in 21 months, the American Constellation arrived last Friday and brought around 80 new faces to town for one night.

The latest report from the Dahl Memorial Clinic in Skagway shows that 701 people have been fully vaccinated, but with the population constantly changing, it’s unclear exactly what percentage this represents.

Skagway’s touring season begins to accelerate significantly in late July, with ships bringing thousands of people to town on schedule. It is not yet known when the border between Canada and the United States will open, although Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signaled that there could be an easing of travel restrictions as early as next week.


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