Members of Liard First Nation worried as COVID-19 cases spike in nearby Watson Lake

5 new cases of COVID-19 linked to family cluster in Watson Lake area

The chief medical officer in the Yukon confirmed Monday there are five new cases of COVID-19 in the Watson Lake area, bringing the territory’s total number to 22.

On Friday, Oct. 23, Dr. Brendan Hanley said in a statement that three new cases were reported as part of a family cluster, and that those infected were self-isolating at home.

The two new cases are linked to the same household as the original three cases.

Watson Lake is home to approximately 1,400 citizens from Liard First Nation (LFN), who live in or around the area near the border with British Columbia.

LFN is one of four Kaska Nations.

“Of course everyone is scared, we just have to follow the guidelines they put in place for everyone’s safety,” said LFN citizen Vanessa Dickson adding there’s fear in the community that the virus has spread.

Dickson said she’s waiting to hear of any updates from chief and council, and hopes to see a drive-through testing centre for community members.

Read More: APTN News coverage of COVID-19

LFN member Mary Caeser said she’s worried an outbreak of the virus would be fatal for elders and people within the community who are already experiencing poor health.

“I am worried about COVID here because Watson Lake is a small town. There’s a lot of Kaska people with other health issues,” said Caeser.

“There’s a high rate of cancer and other illnesses that’s affecting Kaska people’s health.”

LFN chief and council said in a release Saturday that the original three cases are not band members and that all operation offices will be closed to the public until further notice.

A Yukon government press release states people who were in the locations in Watson Lake on the dates listed above and are experiencing symptoms should contact the Watson Lake Community Hospital at 867-536-4444 to arrange for testing.

Other Yukoners who may have been in these locations and who are experiencing symptoms should contact the COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre at 867-393-3083 in Whitehorse or the community health centre in their community.

This is the fourth incidence of infection in a rural community since COVID-19 was reported in Yukon.

Hanley said the new cases are not related to travel outside of the territory, though he did speculate they might have been transmitted from someone coming from outside of the Yukon. He said the source of infection has yet to be determined.

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