Starting Dec. 1 masks will be mandatory in public spaces across the Yukon in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
Premier Sandy Silver and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced the decision on Nov. 24 during the weekly COVID-19 update.
“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said. “Following the safe six with the addition of wearing a mask is the best thing you can do to continue to curb the spread of this disease. This will extend to all Yukoners over the age of two, with very limited exceptions.”
“Make no mistake, we must all take these precautions now so that we do not see case increases exponentially and rapidly throughout the territory,” Silver said.
Hanley encouraged Yukoners who don’t already have masks to obtain them and begin wearing them. A full detailed list of places where masks are required will be released before the new rule comes into effect.
Starting Dec. 1 they will be mandatory in those places for all Yukoners above the age of two.
The week-long delay gives businesses, organizations and governments time to prepare, Silver said, though he urged everyone to “please start wearing your masks now.”
Starting on Nov. 26 Yukon hospitals will be asking all members of the public to wear a mask at the hospital when they arrive.
As of early Nov. 25, the COVID-19 case count for territory remains at 38, with 14 cases active and two presumptive cases expected to be confirmed shortly. Two out-of-Whitehorse cases have been confirmed in Dawson City.
“In many ways, it was a matter of time until the second wave in Canada affected us, but control of this pandemic is still within reach. And we must focus our efforts on the goal of keeping COVID to a minimum,” Hanley said.
Hanley said the 14 active cases are being organized into two separate outbreaks — “Outbreak A” and “Outbreak B” — and a third “cluster” of two cases thought to be linked to Outbreak A.
Outbreak A includes five individuals only being referred to as cases 24, 25, 28, 33 and 34. Case 28’s origin was related to Outside travel, but Hanley said the transmission was inadvertent and spread to other individuals either in household or work settings.
Cases 29 and 27 are a cluster thought to be linked to Outbreak A through a setting identified in the public exposure notices.
The second outbreak group, Outbreak B, includes cases 26, 30, 31, 36, 37, 38. In the case 26 group there was transmission to others in a shared household. Hanley said the origin of that case hasn’t been identified.
Case 32 appears unrelated to the two outbreaks.
“We are currently treating these as separate groups. But as I say there are probable links in between at least two of them, and possibly between all three,” Hanley said.
“We have not ruled out community transmission, but at the same time, we still see no evidence of community transmission, in that all cases to date have a defined or suspected link to travel or to cases in themselves or linked to travel,” said Hanley.
Community transmission is defined as “when we have a number of cases where the source of transmission is not known,” he said.
Additional exposure notifications have been released for a number of businesses, including Canadian Tire in Whitehorse on Nov. 17 from opening to close, Wykes Independent Grocer in Whitehorse on Nov. 17 from opening to close, Starbucks on Chilkoot Way in Whitehorse between Nov. 12 and 18 from opening to close, Tony’s Pasta and Seafood House in the SKKY Hotel in Whitehorse on Nov. 14 from 5 p.m. to close, the Dawson City General Store in Dawson on Nov. 15 from opening to close and the Better Bodies fitness centre from Nov. 16 from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Anyone experiencing symptoms is instructed to call the COVID-19 testing centre in Whitehorse at 393-3083 or their community health centre.
To accommodate the anticipated increased demand for testing, the territory opened a drive-thru COVID-19 screening service on Nov. 22 at Centennial Motors on the Alaska Highway. It’s opened every day from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Hanley said the drive-thru will be assessed at the end of the week with service to be extended if necessary.
In addition, Air North has released an exposure notification for Flight 573 on Nov. 15, Flight 333 on Nov. 9, and Flight 528 on Nov. 8. Air Canada also issued a notice for Flight 111 on Nov. 7.
“Please don’t vilify or avoid businesses that don’t shut down, if they remain open, (it is) because there is little or no risk to doing so,” Hanley said.
Hanley also corrected previous information about a case connected to a child in daycare. The case was not a child, but an adult associated with adult staff of the daycare. Hanley said the Yukon Child Development Centre is handling that process.
One new charge was laid last week for failing to self-isolate.
Schools will remain open, but the Yukon Communicable Disease Center will inform parents directly if a case appears positive in the classroom environment.
Contact Haley Ritchie at email@example.com