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COVID-19 update urges “kindness and patience” for travellers transiting through the territory

“We need to support each other through these challenging times”
Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley speak during a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on July 29. Silver urged “kindness and patience” during the weekly COVID-19 update on Oct. 21, after RCMP said they are investigating an act of vandalism against American travellers in Haines Junction. (Alistair Maitland Photography file)

Premier Sandy Silver urged “kindness and patience” during the weekly COVID-19 update, after RCMP said they are investigating an act of vandalism against American travellers in Haines Junction.

“We will continue to see individuals with licence plates from Outside and most of them have a legitimate reason for being here,” Silver said.

“I was very disappointed to hear of the American travellers who had the window of their vehicle smashed in at their hotel on route to Alaska this week. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable. As we move into winter, travel is becoming more challenging and it is also more important than ever that we’re patient and we’re kind and respectful. We need to support each other through these challenging times,” he said.

The American couple had the back window of their truck smashed in, but nothing was stolen. RCMP said they are investigating the incident.

Silver reminded Yukoners if they have concerns or want to report a violation of the rules, including the requirement to transit through the territory within 24 hours, they can do so through the official enforcement teams by email or phone.

“Yukon has a reputation of being a welcoming place. And it’s extremely important that we uphold this reputation,” Silver said.

One charge was laid on Oct. 19 for a Yukon resident who travelled outside of the travel bubble and failed to follow self-isolation requirements. The total number of complaints is 930 and 19 charges have been laid in total.

Contract tracing has been completed after two people in Whitehorse were confirmed positive for COVID-19 last week, bringing the territory’s case load to 17.

The cases were announced Oct. 19 as travel related. The two individuals had been outside of the territory and were self-isolating at home when they began having symptoms. They are now recovering at home.

Hanley said both exhibited “mild symptoms,” reiterating the importance of getting tested and following self-isolation plans.

“The mild symptoms that these cases experience reminds us that most of the time COVID is a mild infection. But we know that every now and then, especially in people who are older, or who have underlying health conditions, it can be severe or even fatal,” he said.

“Although I wish COVID on no one, occasional cases like these are what we expect to see as Yukoners venture outside the territory, whether inside or outside our bubble,” he said.

The federal government has announced that the non-essential travel restrictions with the United States have been extended until Nov. 21.

The Alaskan community of Skagway is currently under shelter-in-place orders, at least until Oct. 24, after the community identified five positive cases and instances of community transmission.

A Skagway man who tested positive made the decision to allow his name to be released to the public in order to speed up contact tracing.

Asked about the decision, Hanley said as long as contact tracing is effective, as it is in the situation of the Yukon, there is no need to breach confidentiality, even when an infected person may volunteer.

“That was certainly something that took us all by a little bit by surprise, and it’s an unusual move. I think it has to be considered in the context of what is going on in Alaska, where clearly, there is a high degree of upsurge in COVID,” Hanley said.

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