Premier Sandy Silver speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on July 15. As the territory continues to move towards Phase 3 of its reopening plan in August, Premier Sandy Silver says changes to early childcare could be coming. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

Yukon continues heading towards Phase 3 of reopening

‘We can not let our guard down now’, premier says

As the territory continues to move towards Phase 3 of its reopening plan in August, Premier Sandy Silver says changes to early childcare could be coming.

Silver made the announcement during the territory’s weekly COVID-19 update on July 15, noting the global pandemic has emphasized the essential role childcare has for families.

The Yukon government, he said, is working on a universal early learning program that would be available on a sliding scale income model similar to what is offered in Quebec.

Childcare centres play an important role in learning for children, he stressed, noting Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost will be making further announcements about the plan at a future date.

“A daycare is an educational opportunity,” he said.

Meanwhile, as more facilities continue to open with physical distancing and increased cleaning measures in place, Silver said the Whitehorse Public Library is planning to reopen its doors to the public July 21.

Like many libraries around the territory, it has offered a curbside pickup program for a number of weeks, but this will mean residents can go back in the library, browse the shelves and use the services offered there.

A number of measures will be in place including hand sanitizing requirements on entry; limited seating until new, more easily sanitized, furniture arrives; reducing the number of computer stations and usage times; and asking people to bring in their own headphones to use at the public computers.

“I know this community resource has been missed,” Silver said.

While Silver appeared pleased to announce the reopening of the Whitehorse library and moving towards Phase 3, he also remained clear throughout his comments that it’s important Yukoners continue to take distancing precautions and follow the advice of health authorities to keep moving forward.

“We can not let our guard down now,” he said.

Two weeks after Phase 2 has started — when border restrictions were lifted to allow those coming from B.C. and the two other territories into the Yukon without having to self-isolate — the total number of cases of COVID-19 remain at 11 in the Yukon with the last one identified in April and classified as recovered May 1.

Since the respiratory assessment centre reopened earlier this month, a total of 32 have been tested with the territory awaiting results for 13.

Since the border reopened, 1,587 travellers from British Columbia have entered the territory along with 1,100 Yukon returning home. A total of 1,600 have transitioned through the Yukon.

Silver suggested those concerned about travellers not following the required route through the territory can contact authorities who can look into the matter.

In total so far, there’s been 119 complaints and four fines issued.

The premier also issued a reminder that those travelling with license plates from other jurisdictions may indeed be authorized to be here and said the government is working on finding an approach that would help identify those vehicles.

Silver defended school reopening plans that will see a number of high school students moved to facilities at other schools.

The move to place students in the experiential high school programs normally offered out of the Wood Street Centre at Porter Creek Secondary School instead, while Grade 8 F.H. Collins Secondary School students move to Wood Street, has been met with heavy criticism.

Silver however, noted that this is not a normal school year and the plans have been made with the best interests of accommodating students in the midst of a pandemic while also providing for distancing measures.

“These are temporary,” Silver said, noting officials will be assessing how the plans go through the next school year.

A survey is underway by the Department of Education looking at how the cancellation of in-person classes this spring impacted students and their families. It is available here.

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