Watson Lake CAO Cam Lockwood said things have slowed down in town as the town reacts to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Wikimedia Commons)

Watson Lake, Carmacks slowing down as COVID-19 precautions increase

Watson Lake and Carmacks officials speak on community reaction to COVID-19 pandemic.

Yukon communities are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic by cancelling events and encouraging social distancing.

Watson Lake CAO Cam Lockwood told the News last week that things have slowed down in town. The Watson Lake Recreation Centre was closed to the public before the territorial declaration of a public health emergency on March 18, and the town has increased its normal cleaning practices at municipal facilities.

He added the town is looking at helping with social distancing.

The local recycling centre is limiting access to two people at a time. People are asked to wait outside until drop-offs are processed. Should anyone have a cold or are coughing, they are being asked to come back once they have recovered.

He said everyone is pulling together and there seem to be less people out in the community.

“It seems everyone has bought into everything,” Lockwood said.

Restaurants have shifted their focus to take-out only. Watson Lake Foods has closed its bakery and coffee shop section. He said the grocery store has limited the sale of certain items, like toilet paper.

He pointed out that the local hotels are experiencing cancellations across the 2020 tourist season. Lockwood said he spoke to one hotel owner, who informed him that the hotel already lost 60 per cent of its reservations.

Lockwood said he was unsure how the hospital was coping. He did say that the doctor’s office, in the basement of the hospital, was trying to see patients for prescription refills and checkups. Medical services are also being offered by video online or over the phone.

Council will still be moving ahead as normal. He explained that not many people attend council meetings, but the town will look to comply with the limit of 50 people. All other community meetings have been cancelled.

He said there are also discussions of shutting down the local ski hill for the rest of the season.

He said he hopes people will continue efforts to contain COVID-19 and not hoard supplies.

Carmacks Mayor Lee Bodie said the village had closed all of its programming the day before the territory declared the public health emergency. The Carmacks Recreation Centre and the library has been shut down. The municipal office is closed to visitors but can still be reached by telephone.

“We’re limiting exposure,” Bodie said.

He said the biggest store in town has increased cleaning measures, including on door handles, the fridge handle, tills, debit card pin pads and coffee cups.

“It’s a whole different world here,” Bodie said.

Council will also continue to meet in Carmacks. The mayor said there will be an effort to promote social distancing. Participants will be limited to 10 people if there are delegations.

The joint council meeting with Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation for March 19 was cancelled because too many people would have attended.

“We’re taking extra precautions so we’re not the cause of anything,” Bodie said.

Local restaurants have either taken further cleaning efforts or gone to take-out only.

Bodie said he’s even given people the advice of not sharing pens. He also advised people to avoid going out to buy things if they feel sick and suggested sending someone to get supplies for you.

“It’s just common sense,” he said.

That said, he described the mood in the village as relaxed. He said no one is really panicking but some are concerned.

The News contacted several other communities but did not receive a response before press time.

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