On the passing of Bill Weigand
I was very saddened to hear of the death of my friend Bill Weigand.
During his time as mayor he and his wife Jeri entertained many Yukoners and visitors. One of the latter were representatives from China which led to their volunteering in China.
In 1995, I was privileged to visit them and meet many of their colleagues. Bill and Jeri insisted that I stay with them, which meant that I was the first foreigner to stay in a private home as the rule was that foreigners had to stay in a hotel.
However, they were so respected, that that rule was set aside. They worked tirelessly for the community and even managed to get funds from Canada to buy kits for midwives. Their experience is wonderfully documented in the book written by Jeri “Knowing Miss Chen”. Everywhere we went, and I mean everywhere, Bill took pictures of people and then returned to give them the photos, in a time when cameras were not common, this meant that they were known in every store and restaurant and always greeted with big smiles and welcome greetings..
Bill was a true Yukoner , and when I had my office in the log skyscrapers in Whitehorse, he and Jeri reminded me that they had lived there and climbed to the second floor by a ladder, no stairs at the time. Their time in Dawson running their bar in the goldfields, visited by dignitaries and miners who were treated treated equally was a landmark. As a business person, he and Jeri ran a successful jewellery business in Whitehorse .
Others will know many of their other accomplishments but I will remember Bill as someone who enriched my life with his humour, his kindness and his love for the Yukon and his joy in new experiences and making a difference. And for his loving partnership with Jeri over many decades.
To Yukon’s leaders
I have been an avid supporter of the government’s attempts to deal with the pandemic: I am thankful that Yukon got the vaccine early and that it was distributed in a speedy and organized way to Yukoners. I also appreciate the efforts made to keep Yukoners informed, especially the website, which contains much useful information that is readily accessible online. So, kudos to everyone concerned.
However, I would like to express my concern about the current outbreak of COVID. I was apprehensive around the lifting of restrictions on May 25, especially around travel and size of gatherings. I watched the data carefully and was not surprised when I saw the increases in June. I note from the exposure notices that most concern places where alcoholic beverages are sold. What has surprised me is the failure to reintroduce restrictions around gathering indoors, especially in bars and pubs and anywhere else people tend to stay for several hours. This hasn’t happened and I really don’t understand why.
I also note that Yukon must have a fair number of people who are choosing not to get vaccinated. I accept that this is their right. However, I believe that public health must be preserved and that the responsibility for this lies with the government. If people are to be allowed to congregate in venues with a high possibility of contagion, then it seems to me that restrictions should apply to unvaccinated individuals. Quebec has just instituted a requirement that only people who have been vaccinated can be admitted to bars, etc. Access to bars and pubs is already restricted by age so adding another restriction that is likely to curb transmission of this deadly illness seems reasonable. I am of the opinion that it is time for Yukon to follow suit.
The rise in cases disturbs me because of the knock-on effect on the health of individuals who get this disease – long-COVID, delays and cancellations for medical treatments and the overall negative effect this is likely to have on medical staff. Because of this, I would like the relevant government and medical authorities to revisit restrictions, with a view to reducing access to venues where contagion is likely, especially for people who are not vaccinated.
Now is not the time to open up
The Yukon is currently experiencing the beginning of a major outbreak. The Yukon had a complete lockdown with a fraction of cases more than a year ago.
Now we have opened up bars, restaurants, hotels and face a full-blown Yukon pandemic.
Before I dive into my criticism about the handling of the current COVID situation, let me praise the staff and organizers of vaccination clinics. They have done an excellent job and are working hard. I fail to see the logic behind the easing of COVID restrictions on May 25th, which was pretty much the start of the current wave.
Young people who wanted to celebrate their graduation are blamed by the people in charge. Since the Biontech Pfizer was only available close to the graduation, a completed vaccination was not possible before the celebrations. Perhaps vaccinations should have happened before allowing the bars open and allow indoor gatherings of 20 people and outdoor gatherings of 100.
Then there is the other group of unvaccinated and the badly behaving people. Are they all Yukoners? Or perhaps people from out-of-the-territory such as hard rock miners and exploration workers, the so-called essential workers? After all the first cases of this wave emerged at the Victoria Gold Mine site, all three cases turned out to be the more transmissible Gamma mutant.
Canada has also imported the Delta and Lambda variants, currently responsible for quite a few COVID cases in BC and Alberta. The Delta variant has successfully bent the flattened curve in the UK into a steep uphill scenario — despite a serious push for vaccination. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to consider a lockdown before we have the opportunity to deal with this even more contagious version of the COVID variants? This variant is pushing India’s health care system to the limit, and can cause severe illness in children. Are we prepared and proactive this time, or are we waiting in the ‘re-active’ pose again, hoping for some magic to happen?
Before blaming young and unvaccinated people again, we should ask ourselves if the May 25th opening was in the best interest of Yukoners or just protecting economic interests of some big corporations. The economy suffers mainly because the regulators did not react fast and decisive enough. They reacted instead of being proactive.
We were lucky in October after the border to B.C. was opened. The border was closed again in November and a spike in cases slowed down. No such luck this time! Maybe it would be wiser to have another lockdown and await a clearer understanding of the impact of new variants.
Vaccinations are believed to be our main weapon in the fight against COVID. But this also gives vaccinated people a false sense of security. Now is not the time to relax and open up. The current strategy only prolongs the pandemic. Covid is not done yet or will magically disappear!