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Premier says reopening of Yukon will be gradual

Number of COVID-19 cases in the Yukon holds steady
Premier Sandy Silver during a live update on the COVID-19 situation in Whitehorse on March 27. Silver told Yukoners on April 28 that the reopening of the territory will be a gradual process. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Premier Sandy Silver said the reopening of the Yukon will need to be a balancing act and part of a larger plan in dealing with COVID-19.

Silver and Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, gave some details on the work toward reopening and gave the current virus stats during the April 28 update.

The total number of cases remains at 11, with eight people fully recovered.

Silver said that reopening the territory would take planning and must be done with caution to not waste effort. Any action taken will have a public health foundation, Silver said, adding the measures to contain COVID-19 are working.

The process to roll back measures will be gradual, he said, and the health care system must also be prepared to handle reopening.

Silver reiterated that any policy related to COVID-19 would be formulated based on Hanley’s advice. He added that Yukoners would be updated as plans are solidified.

“It’s not time yet (to reopen),” Silver said. “We must be patient.”

Hanley said the Yukon is in a good place overall, though the territory cannot relax measures too soon or wait too long either.

To roll back measures, there needs to be a high testing capacity to remain ahead of any possible spread.

Earleir in the week the government announced it had received six ventilators from the Public Health Agency of Canada on April 27, bumping the territory’s total supply to 15.

Pauline Frost, the minister of health and social services, said the ventilators will be distributed between the Yukon Hospital Corporation and emergency medical services. Ventilators are important pieces of equipment, Frost said, but it is also paramount to have trained staff that know how to use them. The Whitehorse General Hospital has 30 nurses able to operate a ventilator.

Five of the new ventilators have been assigned to the Whitehorse General Hospital and the other was assigned to Emegency Medical Services (EMS). There will be a total of 11 ventilators at the Whitehorse General Hospital, one each in Dawson City and Watson Lake, and two assigned to EMS.

Frost also spoke about the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter. Precautions are being made to keep the facility safe, including sanitizing the bed areas, hand washing stations, and ensuring beds and services at the shelter meet social distancing parameters.

Overnight shelter guests will soon also be tested for COVID-19 symptoms now that a screening process has been developed. There is also a plan to have on-site testing for guests.

Officials are exploring ways to support and help isolate guests that are either experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have been diagnosed with the virus.

Contact Gord Fortin at