The territory has declared a state of emergency after a recent surge of COVID-19 cases and “widespread, untraceable” community transmission.
The state of emergency was announced on Monday evening, followed by a press conference on Nov. 10. New health measures are being introduced to limit transmission and reduce the risk of overwhelming the Yukon’s limited healthcare system.
“This is a challenging time. We are seeing more COVID infections and more severe COVID than any of us had hoped. Our healthcare system is strained but not overwhelmed. This is why we need to take action now,” said acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Catherine Elliott.
“These measures will take about two weeks to make a difference and bend the curve if we follow them and if we do the right thing,” she said.
The current case count as of Nov. 10 is 150 cases. While the majority are in Whitehorse, there are 22 cases in Carmacks, 14 in Watson Lake, two in Dawson City and Haines Junction and one in Pelly Crossing.
Yukoners are recommended to follow the new measures immediately but enforcement will begin on Saturday, November 13. They will remain in place until at least Dec. 3.
In summary, the new rules, enforceable under the Civil Emergency Measures Act, include mandatory masking in most spaces, limits on gatherings by household and proof of vaccination required to attend many facilities and businesses such as restaurants and gyms.
Elliott is recommending that travel between communities, and between communities and Whitehorse, be avoided until further notice. Specific exposure notices will not be released, because all public interactions are now a potential source of transmission.
For those groups that are fully vaccinated, up to 10 people from a maximum of two households can gather. Unvaccinated individuals should restrict personal gatherings to household members only.
For organized gatherings such as weddings and conferences, indoor events can include 25 people with proof of vaccination required. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 individuals. Seated ticketed events, including arts and sporting events, and faith-based and cultural gatherings are restricted to 50 per cent of capacity with proof of vaccination. Physical distancing will be required.
A full and detailed list of facilities affected is online.
Silver said the technology allowing businesses and facilities to verify vaccination, via a secure app, will be available to download soon.
Yukoners can request their proof of vaccination credential online at yukon.ca/vaccine-proof or on the phone via the COVID-19 InfoLine at 1-877-374-0425, seven days a week, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Silver also provided an update on earlier announced mandatory vaccines for government employees. Public servants, government volunteers and contractors will be required to get a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 30 and second dose by Jan. 30.
Those who do not get vaccinated will be placed on leave without pay until they are vaccinated.
Both Elliott and Silver also noted during the press conference that frontline health care workers have been facing verbal and physical threats and are concerned for their safety.
Both reiterated that healthcare workers have been working hard the entire pandemic. Silver said he would not provide examples or numbers of harassment incidents.
“There are a lot of conversations about civil liberties. The first word is civil,” he said.
“They deserve gratitude for the work that they do every day to protect us. If you disagree with the policy, fine, take that up with me. My government is responsible for the decisions,” he said. “All of our frontline staff. They’re doing their best to support the health and well-being of Yukoners. They are heroes.”
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org