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LETTER: Questions remain about relaxing public health measures

Dear Premier Silver:

Dear Premier Silver:

I have written to you previously (July 8 and July 15) concerning the proposed relaxation of COVID-19 Public Health Measures and have yet to receive a formal response to the concerns I have raised. (This does not sit well with the democratic notion the governments are required to be responsive to the concerns of citizens.)

This is my third letter about the lifting of public health restrictions and is in response to the announcement that Covid-19 Public Health Measures will be lifted on Aug. 4.

I do not consider the information on this topic given by Richard Mostyn, Minister of Community Services or Dr. Catherine Elliott, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health to be either convincing or reasonable. Context is always important. The vast majority of Yukon cases (483 of them) have occurred between June 1 and July 23 this year, including four deaths. World wide, it took 15 months for the virus to claim three million lives and only three months to claim the next million. What the Yukon Government has proposed now is contrary to common sense and to the policy laid out in the government document, dated March 2021, A Path Forward: Next Steps. The most striking contradiction is that in March (before the June surge of 483 cases), 40 cases was considered Level 4: Very high risk. Somehow, three months later, 77 cases (active cases as of July 23, 2021) is considered acceptable and “opening up” is the path forward.

Many of the assertions made by Mostyn and Elliott and much of the rhetoric are just that - assertions and rhetoric. Vaccination rates does not make “Yukon one of the safest places in the country” - only vaccination rates PLUS Public Health Measures can attempt to do that. How can Mostyn expect us to believe that the “risk of COVID-19 importation to the Yukon is low” when cases are rising elsewhere, particularly in BC? Across the world, cases are rising and even today (July 23, 2021) Jacinda Ahern has closed New Zealand’s bubble with Australia and half of Australia’s population is in lockdown. In the U.S., many states have re-instituted mask-wearing and physical distancing because of the increase in cases of the Delta variant.

Yet, here in the Yukon, Mostyn announces that bars and restaurants will return to full capacity with no masks and no physical distancing requirements. On the other hand, limits will still pertain to “social gatherings”. This is a mockery. Bars and restaurants are social gatherings and that is where a lot of the exposure notices I read were from. The acting CMOH reported that cases were “stabilizing”, yet in the next breath reported that six out of seven cases reported between Tuesday July 20 and Wednesday July 21 (the date of the news conference) were unvaccinated. I assume that this government can do simple math If 80 per cent of eligible Yukoners are vaccinated then 20 per cent are not. In spite of this they are willing to forego simple public health requirements and to open our borders to unvaccinated people from elsewhere in Canada. This makes no sense.

The dropping of public health restrictions (a collective responsibility) is now being sold to us as “personal responsibility”. However, personal responsibility is well nigh impossible without access to information. The public generally does not have access to the kind of information needed to make informed decisions. We are not being told how ill people are getting. How many are in hospital, in ICU or medivaced? I have heard that the number of people medivaced has risen to double digits. Is this true? If most of the people who are infected are unvaccinated, why is the government taking this opportunity to remove the only protection the rest of us vaccinated folk have (masking and physical distancing). And what about the strain on the medical system? Why do I and other people I know have to wait for commonplace medical procedures because the hospital has a backlog “due to COVID”? If the press is for a “return to normal”, then why isn’t your government doing more to help the unvaccinated change their minds? Why should unvaccinated people be allowed into enclosed public spaces without basic public health measures in place to protect the rest of us who are taking responsibility for our own health and the health of the community at large? These are the kinds of hard questions that ministers and health officials need to address in place of ill-considered and vague statements.

Members of the government would do well to re-read the document - A Path Forward: Next Steps paying particular attention to Page 6. Page 6 talks about “modest steps forward”, the “critical” importance of public health measures (self-isolation and Safe 6 plus 1), and “open and effective communication”. This was only three months ago. The Yukon government has a lot of explaining to do about why it is engaged in this current U-Turn.

Yours sincerely,

Janet Webster