Coronavirus updates

Updates on COVID-19 from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health

April 3, 2020 – Update on COVID-19

Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley and Premier Silver have the following updates for the Yukon public on measures being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 cases and recoveries

As of today, April 3, at 3 p.m. the number of cases of COVID-19 in Yukon remains at six.

Four of the six people who contracted COVID-19 have now recovered and all others are isolating and doing well at home. No Yukon cases have required medical treatment.

Yukon continues to have no documented cases of community transmission. All identified infections in the territory so far are connected to travel outside Yukon or to known contacts. Community transmission occurs when it is no longer possible to trace how somebody became infected. Physical spacing measures are people’s best protection against unknown community transmission.

Information about COVID-19 tests is published regularly on Yukon.ca. This includes how many confirmed cases there are in Yukon, how many tests have been negative, how many results are pending, the total number of tests and how many people have recovered.

Legal orders

As announced by the Government of Yukon on April 2, 2020, Yukoners should be aware that all orders put in place by the Yukon Chief Medical Officer in response to the pandemic are enforceable by law. This announcement about enforcement measures was in recognition of the vulnerability of communities throughout Yukon and will help clarify the rules for anyone who is uncertain about what they and others can and cannot legally do.

The enforceable orders require that: everyone who enters Yukon must self-isolate for 14 days; all essential services workers must self-isolate in a place other than a work camp or mine; all people entering Yukon must provide contact information and details of their self-isolation plan and declare they don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms; no more than 10 people can gather in the same place unless they live together; all restaurants that remain open must only provide take out; all bars must close; dental visits are limited to emergency only; and all personal service businesses such as hair salons, tattoo parlours and massage therapy must close.

Special provisions and requirements are now in place for critical service providers, people travelling through Yukon and people who live in the BC-Yukon border area who haven’t travelled out of the territory or border area in the last 14 days. Travellers are only allowed to be in Yukon for 24 hours as they pass through.

Recommendations

To help protect Yukoners since the start of the pandemic, the Chief Medical Officer of Health has made several strong recommendations as well as orders. These recommendations include: not travelling to rural communities or outside the territory unless it’s essential; practicing greater hygiene and always keeping at least two meters apart from others unless they’re part of the same household; working from home when possible; and avoiding non-essential treatment at hospitals. 

Hospital care

Yukoners are reminded that hospitals are still very safe places to seek care. If people need to see a doctor for their illness, medical condition or injury they should call 811 first. If they’re advised to go to Emergency then they should do so.

Yukoners should also be aware that no hospital visitors are allowed except in limited circumstances and that active screening is in place at the entrances to all hospitals. Screeners have the difficult but important job of ensuring people have access to urgent care and keeping everyone safe. This means they may have to redirect people to other health service or turn away visitors. This is not an easy measure to enforce and Yukoners are asked to be understanding that these steps are being taken to ensure everyone’s safety.

Rural communities

To help protect rural communities in Yukon from the pandemic, the Chief Medical Officer of Health also now strongly recommends that all service providers engage with local or municipal and First Nations governments before they enter any communities. A Government of Yukon team is being established to support this engagement.

Work is also underway to help ensure that Yukoners across the territory are kept up to date with COVID-19 developments and advice in a range of ways, in recognition that not everyone has easy access to online information.

Critical and essential services

To support orders and recommendations made by Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health during the pandemic, the Government of Yukon has published guidelines that explain what critical and essential services are in the context of the pandemic and state the measures that businesses and workers must take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the territory.

Critical workers are defined as those whose services are necessary to preserve life, health and the basic running of society, such as health care, emergency services, energy, water and food.

Essential workers are defined as those whose services support the infrastructure needed for the health, safety and economic wellbeing of Yukoners, such as transportation, construction, and information and communication technologies.

The new guidelines also identify other services that are essential, for example, long-term care facility workers, child care workers, veterinarians and cleaning services.

Guidance on self-isolating

Yukoners who are self-isolating are reminded that they may go outdoors for fresh air or exercise and to carry out urgent errands such as collecting medication if no one else can do this for them, as long as they keep a distance of at least two meters – or six feet – from other people.

Safe spacing is not a law in Yukon but a strong recommendation and common sense during the pandemic. All Yukoners have a responsibility to help stop the spread of COVID-19 with the territory.

Latest information

To keep up to date with the latest information, Yukoners are encouraged to visit Yukon.ca/COVID-19.

April 1, 2020 – Update on COVID-19

Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has the following updates for the Yukon public on measures being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 cases and recoveries

As of today, April 1, at 3 p.m. there are 6 cases of COVID-19 in Yukon. The new case is linked to international travel. The person followed all proper protocols, self-isolated and is recovering at home.

3 of the 6 people who contracted COVID-19 have now recovered and all others are doing well on home isolation.

Information about COVID-19 tests is published regularly on Yukon.ca. This includes how many confirmed cases there are in Yukon, how many tests have been negative, how many results are pending, the total number of tests and how many people have recovered.

Air travellers

Air North staff are greeting all travellers arriving at Erik Neilson Whitehorse International Airport with any airline to give them guidance and instruct them that they must self-isolate for 14 days and monitor themselves for symptoms. Passengers also receive guidance before they deplane and COVID-19 information is displayed on airport screens.

All people arriving in Yukon are ordered to go straight home and into self-isolation for 14 days. If they cannot safely self-isolate at home, they should contact COVID19info@gov.yk.ca to be linked with the team supporting people who cannot self-isolate at home.

Support for vulnerable people

Several measures are in place at the Government of Yukon’s Whitehorse Emergency Shelter to help keep guests and staff safe during the pandemic. This includes actively monitoring guests for symptoms of COVID-19 and reducing the number of people gathering in the shelter at the same time, while still providing essential services and prioritizing people who are most in need.

Whitehorse Emergency Shelter staff are also carrying out safe spacing and additional cleaning to prevent the spread of infection and are educating guests about physical distancing, increased hygiene and coughing etiquette. Staff have accommodation ready for guests who may need to isolate and are helping people who don’t require additional support to find alternative, temporary accommodation.

In addition, the Government of Yukon is sharing guidance and resources such as a screening tool with non-governmental organizations across the territory that provides services for homeless people and those at risk of homelessness so they can help protect clients, staff and volunteers.

Work camp guidelines

Guidelines have been issued for work camps during the pandemic, including how to help staff who have symptoms or who are required to self-isolate, how to practice safe spacing and enhanced hygiene, and how to handle food.

It is recommended that employers pay staff who need to self-isolate as this will help ensure that staff report any COVID-19 symptoms and follow isolation protocols. Mining camp workers arriving in Yukon are reminded that they are required to self-isolate for 14 days before they start work.

Latest information

To keep up to date with the latest information, Yukoners are encouraged to visit Yukon.ca/COVID-19.

March 30, 2020 – Update on COVID-19

Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has the following updates for the Yukon public on measures being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 cases and test results

As of today, March 30, at 3 p.m. there are five cases of COVID-19 in Yukon. All five people are doing well at home.

Information about COVID-19 tests is published regularly on Yukon.ca. This includes how many confirmed cases there are in Yukon, how many tests have been negative, how many results are pending and the total number of tests.

Hospital preparedness

Whitehorse General Hospital continues to prepare for the pandemic. They are planning now on how to potentially accommodate a high volume of COVID-19 patients, including identifying other facilities where care could be provided. They are also putting physical distancing measures in place and planning for the effective management of resources such as staff, equipment and supplies.

Contact tracing

People who test positive for COVID-19 may have a history of a flight or flights within the preceding 14 days. In such cases, the Government of Yukon will use information from the airline, when available, to contact only the people on that flight who were sitting specifically within the range of the infected individual.

People identified within that range are directly contacted and required to monitor themselves for symptoms. If they develop symptoms they must immediately self-isolate and contact Yukon Communicable Disease Control. This is a precautionary approach to account for any possible transmission on flights and avoids the publication of flight information. When flight manifest information is not available, the public posting of flight information may be required.

Safe spacing

Keeping two metres apart from other people is one of the most effective ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This behaviour has been referred to as “social distancing” but this language is shifting to the phrases “physical distancing” and “safe spacing” as that wording is clearer and easier for people to visualize and act on.

Yukoners are reminded that other powerful ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19 are frequent handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding face touching.

Latest information

To keep up to date with the latest information, Yukoners are encouraged to visit Yukon.ca/COVID-19.

March 27, 2020 – Update on COVID-19

Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has the following updates for the Yukon public on measures being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 cases and test results

As of today, March 27, at 3 p.m. there are four cases of COVID-19 in Yukon. All four people are doing well at home.

Information about COVID-19 tests is published regularly on Yukon.ca. This includes how many confirmed cases there are in Yukon, how many tests have been negative, how many results are pending and the total number of tests.

Managing COVID-19 cases

As new cases of COVID-19 occur, those who are connected to infected people will continue to be traced and informed so they can take the necessary measures of monitoring themselves for symptoms for up to 14 days.

Yukoners are urged to behave as if COVID-19 is already in their community. They should continue to keep a physical distance of two meters or six feet from each other and practice greater hygiene.

Yukoners are also strongly advised to avoid passing on inaccurate information they may hear about cases of infection. This creates additional anxiety at a time when many people are already struggling to maintain their mental health. 

Federal quarantine measures

As many Yukoners will know, the Government of Canada now requires mandatory 14-day self-isolation for everyone entering Canada even if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms.

Yukoners flying into Canada with symptoms must quarantine at their arrival destination. Yukoners flying into Canada who do not have symptoms may travel home to the territory where they must then follow Yukon requirements and self-isolate for 14 days.

Dental services

The Chief Medical Officer of Health is from today ordering the territory’s dental practices to suspend all non-urgent treatment until further notice. This is to protect Yukoners as well as dental care providers from the spread of infection.

Patients with queries should contact their dental clinic.

Mining industry guidance

Everyone arriving in Yukon must self-isolate for 14 days, including workers at placer or hard rock mines, exploration camps or conducting any other business or duty associated with the mining and exploration industry. Workers cannot carry out their regular duties in a camp or at a mine while they’re self-isolating.

Further guidance for the mining industry is on Yukon.ca.

March 25, 2020 – Update on COVID-19

Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has the following updates for the Yukon public on measures being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 cases and test results

As of today, March 25, at 10 a.m. there are three cases of COVID-19 in Yukon.

This third case is related to travel outside of Yukon. The individual was tested on Monday, March 23 and test results were received this morning. The individual is doing well at home and contact tracing has begun.

Information about COVID-19 tests is published regularly on Yukon.ca. This includes how many confirmed cases there are in Yukon, how many test have been negative, how many results are pending and the total number of tests.

Services for hospital outpatients

Yukon hospitals are suspending all non-urgent or routine services from Thursday, March 26. This includes bloodwork and lab tests, x-rays, CT scans and other imaging services, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, and specialist appointments.

Yukoners should not go to a hospital for a non-urgent service, treatment or exam at this time. The hospitals continue to provide urgent emergency care.

These measures are being taken to help the hospitals make sure they have enough staff and resources to respond to the pandemic and ensure only those who need to be in hospital are in a hospital. These steps also support their efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 – and practice physical distancing from each other.

Health care insurance

The Government of Yukon is extending the Health Care Insurance Plan to cover Yukon residents who are not able to return to the territory because of the pandemic. The usual requirement to be resident in Yukon for at least 180 days to qualify for health care insurance will be waived.

Respiratory assessment centre

The respiratory assessment centre in Whitehorse is now open to support people with acute respiratory illness such as influenza or COVID-19 who need medical assessment. Yukoners will be referred to the centre from 811, a family physician’s office, Yukon Communicable Disease Control or a hospital emergency department.

Self-isolation

Yukoners and any visitors are reminded they must self-isolate for 14 days as soon as they arrive in Yukon if they have travelled within Canada or internationally. People must not stop to get groceries or make visits but go straight home and then arrange the support they need.

Yukoners should also self-isolate if they have been identified as a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

Self-isolation means staying at home for 14 days, monitoring for symptoms and avoiding close contact with other people when going outside for fresh air. The term “quarantine” is not used in Yukon, as it is used by the Public Health Agency of Canada to mean a mandatory restriction of movement in a location determined by that agency.

Yukon.ca

Yukon.ca continues to be the central place to find information about the territory’s response to COVID-19 and is regularly updated to provide support for Yukoners. Yukoners are reminded to use the online assessment tool on Yukon.ca if they have concerns about COVID-19.

March 22, 2020 – Update on COVID-19

Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has the following updates on measures being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 cases

As of today, March 22, at 7 p.m. there are 2 cases of COVID-19 in Yukon.

COVID-19 test results

Yukon is now seeing a faster turnaround time on COVID-19 test results. By early this coming week, the number of completed tests on Yukon.ca will be updated 3 times a week.

Non-essential travel outside of territory and into rural Yukon

In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect Yukon’s most vulnerable citizens, Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health strongly advises the suspension of all non-essential travel into and out of Yukon. All Yukoners planning to return home in the next 30 days are advised to return now.

In view of the need to protect remote areas with limited medical resources, Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health strongly advises the suspension of any non-essential travel to Yukon’s rural communities,

Self-isolation required for all travellers

All Yukoners returning home and all visitors to the territory are required to self-isolate for 14 days. This includes anyone returning home from other provinces and territories by road or air, as well as Yukoners returning home by road from Alaska. We are putting mechanisms in place to monitor and ensure travellers are self-isolating.

If you cannot safely self-isolate at home, email covid19info@gov.yk.ca for information and advice. All Yukoners who return home and have respiratory symptoms (cough, fever, or difficulty breathing) are asked to phone 811 to get advice on COVID-19 testing.

Restaurants and bars

Restaurants must immediately reduce their seating capacity to 50%, space people 2 metres apart, and prepare to offer take-out and delivery service only as of opening on March 26. As of closing time tonight, March 22, all bars must close until further notice.

All personal service establishments must close by end of day, Wednesday, March 25. This includes hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons, and massage therapists.

Gatherings

Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. Smaller gatherings should ensure spacing of 2 metres between people. Yukoners should not attend any social gatherings, even those with fewer than 10 people if:

  • you have any flu-like symptoms at all;
  • you are over 65 years of age or have an underlying health condition; or
  • you work in healthcare, a healthcare facility or other essential services.

March 19, 2020 – Health supports, hospitals and child care programs

Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has the following updates for the Yukon public on measures being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 cases

As of today, March 20, at 9:30 a.m. there are no cases of COVID-19 in Yukon.

COVID-19 test results

Yukon is now receiving COVID-19 test results back from BC more quickly. For now, we will be publishing how many tests have been completed on Yukon.ca on a weekly basis. Information about first cases would be shared with Yukoners as soon as possible. 

Hospital visits

Whitehorse General Hospital will suspend all scheduled, non-urgent surgery procedures from Monday, March 23, 2020. They will continue to provide surgical care for urgent and emergency cases. Anyone with an appointment will be contacted individually by the hospital to let them know and to help them with any questions.

Yukoners may also be aware that no visitors are allowed at the territory’s three hospitals with limited exceptions. Screening is in place at all hospitals, asking anyone coming to hospital about the reason for their visit, symptoms and travel history.

Child care programs

Day cares and child care centres do not need to close. Child care programs are considered to be an essential service that should remain in place as long as possible. They provide access to social supports particularly for vulnerable children and families and for parents who are themselves providing essential services to help keep Yukoners safe. Daycare operators have been briefed on safe social distancing measures within a daycare environment.

811 changes coming

In the coming day or so, people calling 811 for COVID-19 advice will have two options:

they will be able speak to the Public Health Agency of Canada; or
if they have COVID-19 symptoms and have travelled internationally within the last 14 days, or if they have symptoms and have come in contact with an individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19, they can speak to staff at Yukon Communicable Disease Control (YCDC).

The symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough or shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.

People can also still call 811 for non-COVID-19 health advice in the usual way.

Self-assessment tool

Yukoners are reminded that they can now access an online self-assessment tool on Yukon.ca/novel-coronavirus if they have concerns about COVID-19.

Information on Yukon.ca continues to be expanded to provide support for Yukoners. Yukon.ca is the central place to find information about the territory’s response to COVID-19.

Respiratory assessment centre

As announced on Thursday, March 19, the Government of Yukon is setting up a respiratory assessment centre in Whitehorse for people with acute respiratory illness such as influenza or COVID-19 who need medical assessment. 

March 18, 2020 – Chief Medical Officer of Health declares public health emergency

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, today declared a public health emergency under section 4.3 of the Public Health and Safety Act.

This declaration enables the Chief Medical Officer of Health to respond more quickly to the rapidly changing situation and to ensure the health and safety of Yukoners. The public health emergency will be in effect until further notice.

This declaration comes with new public health measures aimed at protecting Yukoners and limiting the spread of COVID-19:

  • Classes are suspended at all Yukon public schools until April 15, or until further notice.
  • All public indoor recreational facilities are required to close until further notice. This includes the Canada Games Centre, ice rinks, and recreation centres.
  • All three Yukon hospitals are closed to visitors, with limited exceptions.
  • Libraries are closed until further notice.

March 16, 2020 – Updates on travel and mass gathering

Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is telling all individuals who have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days to self-isolate. This includes travel to Alaska.

Individuals who have travelled outside of Yukon in the last 14 days, or who are feeling sick, are banned from visiting hospitals.

Long-term care facilities are closed to visitors and volunteers, unless family members are at the end of life or gravely ill regardless of travel.  

These restrictions are accompanied by several others including the following:

  • Mass gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, including at houses of worship.
  • Parents or caregivers who are able to keep their children home from spring break daycamps, or daycare, are requested to do so. Fewer children in camps or daycares will help to limit any spread.
  • People who can work from home are requested to do so. Employers are asked to look for ways to support employees to work from home where possible.

Many of us are interested in how COVID-19 is spread from one person to another.  As an emerging disease, there are many uncertainties about its characteristics.  The information that we communicate today is the best knowledge at this time.  This knowledge does change and get out of date rapidly, and we are keeping updated and adjusting our response accordingly. We must all be cautious and patient as the information changes.

Current evidence supports that the main route of COVID-19 spread is from person-to-person through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The risk of transmission is believed to be highest when the person is most symptomatic. However recent evidence and modeling suggests that transmission may occur prior to symptoms being present.  Major uncertainties remain in the role that asymptomatic transmission may play in the spread of COVID-19.

At this time in Yukon, we are recommending self-isolation for all travelers from international destinations, even those without symptoms.  This precautionary measure is important as we are working with an illness that is not fully understood. 

All people returning from international travel should self-isolate for 14 days.  This means that they should stay home or in the outdoors where they can be 2 metres away from other people. See the Government of Canada webpage for more information.

We are asking all people throughout Yukon to do their part to keep Yukon healthy.  Please continue to practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Please be especially considerate of people over 65 years old and people who have underlying medical conditions who are at highest risk of severe complications of respiratory infections including influenza and COVID-19.

Persons who are returning from travel outside Canada and have any cough or sensation of fever, even mild, should consider themselves infectious and be extra cautious with their self-isolation and distancing from those at highest risk of severe infection.  In that case please self-isolate and call YCDC at 867-667-8323 or 1-800-661-0408 ext. 8323.

The situation with COVID-19 is fluid and we continue to update our guidance based on the latest information.  We will continue to provide the public regular updates as the situation continues to evolve.

Yours in health,

Dr. Catherine Elliott, MD FRCPC

March 11, 2020 – Coronavirus updates

There have been many questions from Yukoners today who attended, live closely with, or work with someone who attended the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto from March 1 to 4, 2020.

Yukoners who attended the conference may have been exposed to COVID-19. Symptoms of COVID-19 include a cough, fever or shortness of breath. If you don’t have these symptoms, then you can go about your regular day-to-day activities. This includes attending work, classes, events and other activities. However, if you develop any of the symptoms listed above, then please stay home and contact Yukon Communicable Disease Control at 1-867-667-8323 to arrange for testing.

It is important to remember people who have no symptoms cannot pass COVID-19 on to others.

It is normal for people to be afraid of contagious diseases. We all want to protect our families, friends and communities. However, fear can cause us to make unwise decisions like spreading misinformation, or hoarding food and medications.

Please remember that the risk of COVID-19 infection for Yukoners remains low, and the majority of individuals who contract the disease will have mild symptoms. We will continue to provide regular updates as the situation evolves.

Yours in health,

Dr. Catherine Elliott, MD FRCPC

March 7, 2020 – Cancellation of 2020 Arctic Winter Games

It is out of an abundance of caution that today, as the Chief Medical Officer of Health, responsible for public health in Yukon, I have recommended the cancellation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games that were scheduled to be held here in Whitehorse beginning next week.

I am making this recommendation out of concern for the health and safety of Yukoners, of all athletes and delegates and for their home communities throughout the circumpolar North.

COVID-19 is a contagious disease that spreads from person to person rapidly through respiratory secretions. In a setting like the Arctic Winter Games, where people are sleeping, eating and playing together in such close quarters, the potential to spread is amplified greatly. Even in the absence of COVID-19 here, a single suspected case would have serious impacts. For example, a person with a cough who has travelled to the games would need to be tested and isolated while awaiting results. The necessity for rapid and rigorous public health response, for the individual, for the contacts, diagnosis and isolation while waiting for even a negative result, the potential for fear, concern here and throughout the North, these would be challenging in the setting of Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse.

The possibility of importation of the disease is changing and raises much uncertainty. While there is no case of COVID-19 in Yukon, other places are seeing community spread with no explanation of how or why. We have been surprised by cases in BC, Alberta and Washington State that have no links to diagnosed cases nor travel history to affected areas. The global spread of COVID-19 has been faster and more uncertain than many of us have expected and we must take the necessary steps to protect ourselves, our citizens and others.

In Yukon, we are already responding to the potential threat of COVID-19. We are taking advantage of this time when the risk is low to mobilize our public health response and our preparedness for potential impacts on acute care services. We are actively monitoring for cases, leveraging existing influenza surveillance systems. We are ready to ensure excellent medical care in a way that protects the health of our population should COVID-19 arrive here.

It is with a heavy heart that I make this recommendation. The Arctic Winter Games is an event that brings together so many northerners from across Canada and other circumpolar regions to celebrate sport, art and culture. It demonstrates the beauty, strength and cohesion of northern peoples. This beauty, strength and cohesion must remain strong through today’s announcement and the coming days.

Catherine Elliott, MD MHSc FRCPC

Trusted sources of information

Chief Medical Officer of Health
Previous updates on coronavirus

Government of Yukon
Information about COVID-19 for Yukoners
Seasonal influenza information
Yukon HealthLine (dial 811)

BC Centre for Disease Control
Information on coronavirus

Government of Canada
COVID-19: outbreak update
COVID-19: travel advice
Toll free: 1-833-784-4397
Email: phac.info.aspc@canada.ca

World Health Organization (WHO)
COVID-19 outbreak