Premier Sandy Silver, left, and chief medical officer Dr. Brendan Hanley speak at the Yukon government COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on May 5. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

COVID-19 situation holds steady in Yukon

No date yet for reveal of plan to reopen

The Yukon government has not yet released a date on when its plan to reopen the territory will be released.

Premier Sandy Silver and the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gave an update on the state of emergency on May 5.

Silver said there are no new active cases of COVID-19. The territory saw 11 cases but each of the individuals has now recovered.

As for reopening, he said some businesses have opened up or have been reintroducing services, pointing to golf courses and recycling centres.

Golf courses were not explicitly closed by the territorial government and recycling centres are considered essential businesses.

In these cases, the businesses in question are finding ways to operate while still adhering to social-distancing recommendations and good hygiene.

Not all businesses can open yet, the premier iterated.

“We can’t just hit a switch and return to normal,” Silver said.

He said establishments like bars, hair salons and massage parlours would not be able to operate while adhering to social distancing.

Food truck operators are able to open and have guidelines to follow.

On the reopening of the territory as a whole, Silver said that general guidelines are being developed. These should be out very soon, he indicated, and the plan would call for relaxing measures.

Silver did not give a timeline or any concrete information on when those guidelines would be made public.

He added any relaxing of measures would be gradual.

Silver affirmed that the government had the right response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He pointed to the territory’s numbers as showing that the preventative measures have worked.

Hanley said more than 1,000 Yukoners have been tested. Most have tested negative, as the positivity rate is one per cent.

He stood firm that the territory is not in the clear to go back to normal, saying he fears that the measures will be relaxed and removed too quickly.

Hanley shared some of the models the government has recreated, though he said that projection can be a difficult game since Yukon didn’t have much of a curve to analyze.

The government claims modelling estimated that there could have been 2,500 cases of COVID-19 in the territory, with 150 hospitalizations by May 1, if measures had not been put in place when they were.

Hanley also shared numbers for the scenario of no measures being put in place at all. Those projections estimated there would have been 7,000 cases and 1,000 hospitalizations. Hanley also said the measures worked.

“Our health system could have easily been overwhelmed,” Hanley said.

On reopening, he said there needs to be a Yukon-built solution that needs time and that it could take another month.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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