Opening the border could be a ‘disaster’ for Yukoners
Upon rereading the letter “Your decision abandons us, our children” (open letter to Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley) in Friday’s Whitehorse Star”, I realized that in order to keep all vulnerable populations safe, I actually support the continued wearing of masks by everyone in indoor and outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible. Increasingly, more and more health experts all over the world are realizing that significant evidence suggests that even fully vaccinated persons can be asymptomatic, significantly contributing to the spread of especially the Delta variant and are reinstating the use of masks as I suggested.
Also, in recent days, there has been significant concern and push back from medical professionals/experts, including Dr. Tam, against the lifting of the mandatory quarantining of COVID-19 positive cases in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and in the case of Alberta even contact tracing, notification of contacts, and testing, feeling that such action will only cause rampant spread of the virus. Dr. Tam has further announced that projection modelling predicts an all but imminent 4th wave in Canada, and advises against further lifting of precautionary measures. In light of this, opening Yukon borders to all Canadians without question is irresponsible and a recipe for disaster for Yukon/Yukoners and even the rest of Canada. I ask that you please refrain from opening the border to even unvaccinated Canadians unless rapid testing is made mandatory at Yukon borders. Our prime concern should be the safety of all Yukoners.
Many thanks again,
Parents concerned about dropped restrictions
Dear Dr. Hanley and Premier Silver,
We are writing to you to express our deep concern about your plan to drop public health restrictions August 4th. We are the parents of two young children who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine for Covid-19 and its variants.
Here are our main concerns:
We have asked children for well over a year to abide by public health restrictions at their young age in order to protect the health of adults. Now that these adults have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, why are you not insisting that adults continue to abide by basic public health restrictions in order to protect the health of Yukon’s children against increasingly dangerous Covid variants until they too can be vaccinated? (i.e. wearing masks in enclosed settings, quarantine for unvaccinated visitors) It is unethical and harmful to our children not to protect them from the infection at the hands of adults who are unvaccinated by choice. We have a shared social responsibility to protect our children.
During the course of the pandemic, the health consequences of Covid on children have been consistently minimized. While it may have been true that the wild strain of Covid was not as great a risk to younger populations, we are now in the era of variants that are proving more dangerous to both children and youth. Further, we have no long-term studies on the effects of Covid infection on children as they age. Why is Yukon’s public health messaging around Covid and children so different from that of other vaccine-preventable diseases? What about long Covid and children? How have things gotten to the place that we do not take action to protect children? The recent Gamma variant outbreak showed that despite our “high vaccination rates,” we still do not have a sufficient level of herd immunity to protect children, the immunocompromised or vulnerable populations (e.g. First Nations).
We need you to start talking about our actual population vaccination rate in the Yukon rather than focus only on that of the “eligible population”. Anything less than the percentage of the total population misrepresents our actual status by ignoring a large sector of Yukoners.
The Delta variant is increasingly active throughout Canada, the U.S. and the world. Why is the Yukon Government not taking a prevention-based approach to keeping new variants out of the territory? We enjoy high vaccination rates, but as the recent Gamma variant outbreak has shown, the unvaccinated (i.e. those who cannot yet receive a vaccination because of their age and those who have chosen not vaccinate because of ideology) were the most vulnerable to infection.
Dr. Leana Wen, a public health physician and professor in the U.S., puts it very well: “Public health is about science—and about values. As a society, we must decide if we wish to put the desires of those who choose to remain unvaccinated above the health and well-being of the vaccinated (and those who cannot yet be vaccinated, including young children).” Bob Rae said something similar: “Libertarian thinking on vaccines has to be challenged. It is a widely accepted constitutional principle that autonomy ends where it brings harm to others.”
We have heard your government talk about the need to return to normal and get back to something closer to our pre-pandemic lives. We agree that this will be necessary, even desirable, at some point. BUT, the Canada-wide rhetoric on this need to return to normal is deeply problematic when children under 12 are not yet vaccinated and the nation-wide lifting of public health restrictions creates unnecessary risk for these children. Further, it creates unimaginable stress for their families.
In terms of the impact on families: research during the course of the pandemic has illustrated that women have borne more of the effects (e.g. career-wise and health-wise) of the pandemic as they have been the ones to take on more child-raising. This is true in our case as well. And, given your decision to remove basic public health guidelines, women such as myself will continue to be deeply impacted until a vaccine is available for our children. Unvaccinated people will be allowed to go unmasked, enter our territory freely, and infect our children. Why aren’t we taking an approach more like France or Italy in which people can choose to be unvaccinated but they must bear the consequences of this decision (cannot travel as freely, have to wear a mask, must quarantine, etc.) rather than imposing their choice on others? We don’t allow people to drive drunk and unvaccinated people should not be able to behave as if they are vaccinated.
Finally, I am a professional as well as a mother – I would very much like to feel that the territory is taking action to allow the mothers of young children to return to work rather than having to absorb the preventable difficulties to come. The universal childcare support was very much appreciated, but it needs to be matched by public health policies that support our children in order to be fully viable for women and families. Women such as myself have made difficult sacrifices repeatedly and have done what it takes, in good faith, to keep our children and families out of risk of illness and its consequences. Your decision does not reward our hard work in following your public health guidelines; it abandons us, our children and our hard work and rewards people who have not worked hard to keep our community safe and those that have bucked public health restrictions.
Finally, I can tell you from numerous conversations that we are not alone in our concerns. Many families and women, in particular, are feeling very concerned about your decision but you may not have heard from them yet because most of us are pretty exhausted after the recent variant outbreak.
With these key details in mind, we ask that you re-consider what feels like a very premature decision on the heels of an exhausting and stressful Gamma variant outbreak. Please work with families and with our First Nations to continue to support vaccine uptake and to enact public health policies that will protect our most vulnerable when they need it the most.
Tandi Brown & Jonathan Kolot