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Not all Yukon businesses, institutions will ease mask-wearing in their facilities

Mandatory masks may end on August fourth but not every Yukon business will be jumping on board
Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank will still require masks, safe six inside. (John Tonin/Yukon News)

On August 4, the territory will be easing its mandatory mask protocol.

It’s another step toward returning to a “new normal” but some Yukon businesses and institutions will still be requiring patrons to wear a mask within their walls.

When the pandemic first hit, Bear’s Paw Quilts was one of the first businesses to require clients to wear a mask inside – before the mandatory mask guideline was implemented.

Bear’s Paw Quilts owner Ruth Headley said she’ll still ask people to wear a mask in the store.

“I think I shall now request people to wear them,” said Headley. “We’re still not out of the weeds yet. I have to acknowledge that the majority of my customers are seniors.

“I shall still be wearing a mask. My staff will still be wearing a mask.”

The changes to regulations are coming on the heels of the Yukon’s first outbreak. Headley doesn’t want to take one step forward to take three steps back.

“I’ve struggled through (the pandemic) this long, I don’t want to make a mistake now,” said Headley.

In the fall, Headley said that’s when quilting classes begin. She doesn’t want to jeopardize having to drop numbers again.

“I can claw my way through to September when my classes start,” said Headley. “Instead of doing 10 in a class we went to eight, we can maybe go back up to 10 so we could have a normal September.

“I don’t want to jeopardize that because I can’t get through a winter without it being normal classes and attendance. Financially, I just can’t do that. I can cope through the summer, but not the winter.”

Melanie Graham, owner of Kutters Hairstyling, said masks will still be required in the salon.

When Kutters reopened after initial restrictions were implemented, Graham said they submitted a reopening plan that required masks before they became mandatory. Despite the rule change on the fourth, Graham said her business will still follow their original plan.

At the salon, Graham said the clients range from young children to seniors and the business won’t be responsible for any transmission that they can help.

“Until I feel we at the shop, until everybody has an opportunity, including our little people to get a vaccine that we will wear masks,” said Graham. “It’s the easiest, least expensive way to curb transmissions.

“We won’t be spreading it, we’re still going to be really careful after August 4 because it’s not worth our seniors getting sick. It’s not worth staff getting sick.”

Graham said Yukoners, for the most part, have been supportive of the rules Kutters has implemented.

“They’ve been understanding and don’t mind putting something on their face for a little while,” said Graham. “We’re one of the only industries, other than medical, who is face-to-face with people for an extended period of time.”

The Yukon Arts Centre (YAC) will not be relaxing restrictions come Aug. 4, said Casey Prescott, YAC CEO.

“We are now in the conversation nationally with other theatres because everyone is trying to figure out what are the safe next steps,” said Prescott. “The thing we don’t want to have to do is repeat what happened this past year.”

The YAC was one of the only theatres to operate during the pandemic, said Prescott.

“We’re in a very unique situation,” said Prescott. “We were able to do that through the guidance of the CMO but also some really great health and safety protocols.

“We are looking for what is the next big step we can take to have more people in our space where we can maintain the safety that we need for everybody to have an enjoyable experience.It’s about trying to avoid going back into total lockdowns and finding that balance.

Prescott said the theatre’s rules will change once they have a “plan that is going to be able to weather any future COVID storm.”

The Whitehorse Food Bank will be keeping mandatory masks and the safe six in its building until September.

“We know that there’s still some spread amongst the more vulnerable sector,” said David Blottner, Whitehorse Food Bank executive director. “We have to put the safety of our clients and volunteers first and foremost.”

Blottner said the Food Bank would rather play it safe and be “extra cautious.”

“We figured an extra month or two to see how things are going and how everything is adjusting would be fine,” said Blottner.

Blottner said in September, after a board meeting, the Food Bank will decide how to move forward.

Contact John Tonin at