Arts Underground is among the growing list of Yukon businesses that have closed or reduced hours as a precaution to the global COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

UPDATED: Cancellations and closures sweep the Yukon as COVID-19 concerns increase

Facilities, performances and businesses temporarily shut.

It’s a long list that continues to grow.

The list of cancelled shows, major events and weekly activities is growing in the Yukon as businesses grapple with new realities amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.

As of March 17, there are no confirmed cases in the territory, but medical officials are advising social distancing, not gathering in groups of more than 50 and to stay home when possible.

Culture and events

It was announced March 16 the final Guild Hall play of its 40th anniversary season — Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play — would not open as scheduled April 9. It is cancelled until further notice.

“Things accelerated so quickly,” Brian Fidler, the Guild’s artistic director and the play’s director, said in a March 16 interview.

All involved recognized the need to cancel, but as stated in the announcement it was a “heart-breaking decision”.

We were far into rehearsals,” Fidler said, adding the set will remain in place for the time being, leaving open the possibility of performances when gatherings and activities can resume.

It’s a show Fidler wants to see come to life on a Whitehorse stage if possible, one that may be seen as “incredibly relevant to what is happening”.

It begins with a group gathered around a campfire recalling a Simpsons episode after a major global catastrophe has drastically changed the world.

Refunds will be offered to anyone who purchased tickets, though Fiddler said supporters can choose to forfeit their ticket as a donation to the Guild, which remains committed to paying those hired for the play’s production.

The 2020 Atlin Arts & Music Festival is also cancelled.

The festival’s board of directors made the announcement March 16, describing the cancellation as a “postponement” to 2021.

“Our festival goers, volunteers, performers, sponsors, vendors and staff are of prime importance and we feel strongly that our community needs to stay safe and remain healthy,” the statement says. “This disease is unpredictable; we don’t know when it will stop spreading. In light of this, we have chosen to do our part to stop the transmission by postponing this year’s Atlin Arts and Music Festival.”

It’s continuing to organize the 2021 festival under the same theme as 2020’s — “Going Back to our Roots.”

Meanwhile, the annual Rotary Music and Dance Festival scheduled in April is off.

“We know that this will be very disappointing for the hundreds of music and dance students and performers who have been preparing for this event all year. However, we feel strongly that their health and that of teachers, spectators, volunteers and venue staff is of the most importance,” said Ian McKenzie, president of the Rotary Club of Whitehorse.

On March 16 the Yukon Arts Centre announced it will be closed immediately until after the Easter long weekend.

This includes the gallery space as well as any performances at the arts centre and Old Firehall downtown. Some shows will likely be cancelled entirely, while others moved to another date. Information on refunds is forthcoming.

These are just a few in a long list. The Association Franco-Yukonnaise has cancelled all of its public activities until at least May 1, though its centre is open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday to Friday; the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre cancelled its Mystical Madness Equinox Edition set for March 21, though day camps are continuing to run through March break; the Yukon Child Care Association has cancelled its annual spring conference; the Yukon Family Literacy Centre has shut its doors temporarily; numerous weekly programs offered by community organizations around town have suspended programming for the time being.

Business

The impact to local business — particularly those in hospitality industry — has been swift.

Many restaurants have moved to limited seating, take-out-only orders, or in some cases full closures on a temporary basis.

Along with hotels and restaurants, the local Landmark Cinemas and Coles book store are following national company orders and shut their doors. Airlines are altering their schedules as well.

Local hotels have been feeling the hit since the cancellation of the Arctic Winter Games. NVD has temporarily shut the doors to its Edgewater Hotel, moving guests to its Coast High Country Inn or Gold Rush Inn. Restaurants at the hotels and at other NVD properties have reduced seating and in some cases are moving to take-out only.

In an interview, NVD CEO Rich Thompson said officials began considering hotel operations shortly after the games were cancelled.

“This is unprecedented,” Thompson said of the pandemic.

Thompson said the closure of the Edgewater was done early so the impact is not so deep.

Efforts have been made to work with employees, who have been given an option of a temporary layoff or reduced hours. Many are choosing a temporary layoff, he said.

“They recognize this is all short-term,” Thompson said, emphasizing the company is doing everything it can to “weather the storm”.

Within the hotels, deep cleaning is being done to rooms and the company is focused on a long-term view.

“We’re really in a whole new world,” he said, adding things are changing often with NVD taking direction from health officials, its board and in some cases franchises that lease space in NVD properties.

It has meant major changes for management. Where there was a management meeting once every week or two, there is now a minimum of two daily management meetings by phone. There have been up to four a day depending on the changing circumstances.

Municipal services

The City of Whitehorse announced March 18 that all operations at the Canada Games Centre would be suspended as of 5:30 p.m. that day, on the recommendation of the chief medical officer of health.

“More details on the recommendation, suggestions for alternative recreational and active living opportunities, and refunds to follow,” the announcement stated.

Public transit is continuing to operate with increased cleaning procedures in place. While there are no protocols to limit the number of riders, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin said that could change in the future.

Dolphin said while other city buildings remain open, residents are reminded to stay away and not take public transit if they’re feeling sick.

Dawson City’s recreation department also announced the cancellation of all programming at the Art & Margaret Fry Recreation Centre, Moose Mountain Ski Hill and youth programming offered by the town.

The rec department, however, is making cross-country ski packages and snowshoes available for rent over the next month with residents asked to call ahead to make arrangements.

“This is an ever-evolving situation and we will continue to provide updates as new information is released.”

Other municipalities are highlighting cancelled events or programming on their social media pages.

With files from Jackie Hong

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Arts and cultureCoronavirusmusic festivals

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