The state of emergency in the Yukon prompted by COVID-19 infections will be dropping alongside the other major health and safety measures this Friday.
The government is reporting health indicators are trending in the right direction a few days before most restrictions, including masks and vaccine requirements in most settings, drop on March 18.
During a March 16 briefing, Premier Sandy Silver said the use of masks and other precautions is still encouraged but will not be enforced in the same way when the state of emergency is no longer in place. He also noted that businesses and other settings will still be able to require masking and vaccines and the vaccine verification system will still be available for them to use.
Silver said the government is continuing to monitor the situation but will provide fewer public health updates going forward. He said the state of emergency is no longer necessary but could be reinstated if the situation deteriorates.
Many of the Yukon government employees who were placed on leave when they would not attest to being vaccinated will be welcomed back to work next month.
Silver said there will be some exception to this, particularly for those who work in high-risk settings that include long-term care, substance abuse programs, hospitals, group homes for children in government care, health centres and public health clinics. He said there won’t be anything stopping rural ambulance units from taking on unvaccinated volunteers but the rules are clear about who will be able to enter a hospital so their duties will be limited.
The Yukon’s acting chief medical officer of health acknowledged the uncertainty that some might be feeling as restrictions are lifted but stressed that health indications continue to trend in the right direction.
“The time has come to start moving from the enforcement of measures to discretionary use of protections that we have come to call the public health measures,” she said.
“The time has come for each of us to use our own discretion, as we move toward this new kind of every day.”
Elliott reported 47 active COVID-19 cases in the territory with eight new ones today. The Yukon has seen 127 hospitalizations and 23 deaths since the pandemic began. She said that rapid tests will still be available and those at risk of severe outcomes from the virus will still be able to get a PCR test done.
She noted the Copper Ridge Place care facility has seen a positive COVID-19 case and one of its units is currently closed to visitors.
The mask requirement will still be in place for students and staff at schools and in early childhood education settings. The schools also have falling restrictions on the horizon as inter-school activities including sports, arts and drama will be restarted on March 21. If the COVID-19 situation continues to improve, out-of-territory field trips will be back on the schedule as of April 19.
Elliott said the mask requirement for schools is being kept in place as the two-week spring break and a return to inter-school activities will likely lead to more contact among students. She said information including case count in schools and number of student absences among other information is being considered in keeping the mask requirement in place for now.
Silver also discussed encouraging news from the federal government suggesting the COVID testing requirement for international travelers may be dropped soon. He said this is a good sign for the Yukon’s tourism industry and all businesses that benefit from more traffic on the Alaska Highway.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org