John Streicker, minister of community services, speak at a press conference in April. Streicker announced guidelines have been released for sports organizations and places of worship, and that guidelines for critical and essential services have been updated. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Places of worship able to reopen this Sunday, YG says

Update includes new guidelines for sports, places of worship and updates to essential services rules

Places of worship, non-contact sports and garage sales are among the things able to return according to the latest from the Yukon Government.

John Streicker, the minister of community services, and Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer of health, made these announcements at the June 5 COVID-19 update.

Streicker said the government is looking to help people deal with mental health issues. Part of this will be allowing faith-based services to resume as of Sunday, June 7.

“This is good news for Yukoners in these uncertain times,” Streicker said. “I know that the current situation has created a lot of stress for individuals and families in and out of the territory and that many may turn to their place of worship for support and guidance.”

Places of worship as well as attendees will need to adopt steps for physical distancing. This includes limiting the seating capacity of indoor places of worship to one third of the building’s capacity with a cap at 50 people. These numbers includes services leaders and organizers.

Common and frequently-touched areas must be cleaned and disinfected with greater frequency, including things like ceremonial objects, seating and railings.

There will also need to be an operational plan, but it does not need to be approved by the chief medical officer’s office. It does, however, need to be ready to be produced if requested.

The territory also posted new guidelines for sports and recreation this week. Streicker said this too is an important aspect to mental health in the territory.

“We want to encourage sports and recreation organizations to restart non-contact activities in a safe and responsible manner because we know how important these activities are to Yukoners,” Streicker said.

Sports and recreation organizations that employ staff — like coaches, referees and coordinators — must create operational plans that will be available upon request.

Sporting events — like tournaments, meets and races — will need to submit an operational plan for review regardless of whether they have staff or not.

Social, recreational or competitive sporting teams that do not have paid staff do not have to create an operational plan, though Streicker said it might be useful for them to create a plan.

Hanley said someone in downtown Whitehorse asked him earlier this week if garage sales could return soon, and he said he thought “why not?”

He said garages sales can take place provided the items for sale are cleaned and any surfaces are sanitized. He suggested that hands be washed after every transaction or gloves be worn.

He recommends people to shop with their eyes and limit what you touch. He adds the buyer should wash the purchased items once returned home.

Streicker also acknowledged that there is concern regarding people traveling through the territory to get home to Alaska, British Columbia or the Northwest Territories. He reiterated that some of the Outside license plates are people that are here for essential services or are in transit through the territory.

He encouraged people to contact a Civil Emergency Measures Act enforcement officer instead of confronting someone about being off the designated transit routes.

“I strongly encourage you to call the COVID-19 call centre,” Streicker said.

The public can reach this centre by calling 1-877-374-0425 or email covid19enforcement@gov.yk.ca.

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

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