Yukon health officer reports first COVID-19 death

WHITEHORSE — Yukon has reported its first death from COVID-19 after an outbreak in the small community of Watson Lake.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said Friday the person who died was "older" and had underlying health conditions. The person died at home on Thursday after showing signs of recovery about two weeks after being infected.

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"It's a very sad day. I feel for the community as well as for the family," he said. "It is something of a shock."

Hanley said experts know that a person's health status can change quickly with COVID-19, especially for older people or those with medical conditions.

"I suspect it's in that area of complications that something happened. We will probably not know for sure," he said of the person's cause of death.

The person who died lived in Watson Lake, where an outbreak of the virus infected five people.

Hanley said 53 people have been tested in Watson Lake, a large proportion of the community of about 800.

He said health officials considered testing the entire community of Watson Lake to find the source of infection. But he said that wouldn't necessarily have been useful because the source could have been infected many weeks ago.

"We have largely satisfied ourselves about containing this outbreak," he said.

Hanley said the territory it is still doing well overall in fighting the spread of COVID-19.

"As we look south to surging activity, we must be vigilant and we must persevere and support each other in our efforts."

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said in a statement he was saddened to hear of the death and he sent his condolences to the families and friends of the person who died.

"On behalf of all Yukoners, I also send support and love to the entire community of Watson Lake at this difficult time," the statement said.

Twenty-three people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Yukon since the pandemic began in March.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2020.

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