Whitehorse Daily Star

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REPORTING TO YUKONERS – Premier Sandy Silver, Mary Tiessen, the territorial government’s American sign language interpreter, and chief medical officer Brendan Hanley are seen left to right at Friday afternoon’s news briefing. It was held in the cafeteria of the Yukon Government Main Administration Building.

Declaration ‘not meant to alarm Yukoners’

The Yukon government declared a state of emergency and announced the territory’s fourth case of COVID-19 on Friday.

By Gabrielle Plonka on March 30, 2020

The Yukon government declared a state of emergency and announced the territory’s fourth case of COVID-19 on Friday.

“This action is not meant to alarm Yukoners,” Premier Sandy Silver told an afternoon news conference of the emergency declaration.

“It gives the government a wide range of options to manage public enforcement and legal issues.”

Silver and Dr. Brendan Hanley, the territory’s chief medical officer, made the announcement.

The territory’s fourth case of COVID-19 was found in an individual in close contact with a previous case, according to Hanley. All four of the Yukon’s COVID-19 cases were described as “doing well at home” on Friday afternoon.

The emergency declaration was made under the Civil Emergency Measures Act, and will last for 90 days unless rescinded earlier. The state of emergency enables government to take certain actions without a cabinet consensus. 

The government is now empowered to “do all things considered advisable for the purpose of dealing with the emergency” primarily through the Community Services Department, headed by Minister John Streicker.

The emergency declaration removes red tape from actions protecting people and property; maintaining, clearing and controlling roads and streets; obtaining and distributing accommodation, food, clothing and other services; providing and maintaining water, power and sewage; assisting in law enforcement; fighting and preventing fires; protecting the health, safety and welfare of inhabitants; and putting into effect any civil emergency plans.

“Today’s declaration does not supersede Yukon’s human rights, nor does it allow government to access your personal medical information,” Silver said.

The premier said he has received an onslaught of requests to implement penalties and enforcement procedures for physical distancing and self-isolation rules.

Silver noted that the government has had the authority to enforce these rules since declaring a public health emergency earlier this month.

“We see that as a last resort,” Silver said.

“I have confidence in every Yukoner that you are going to do what’s right.”

Hanley explained that the fourth case of COVID-19 was not unexpected, as medical officials are now in the “cluster management” phase of virus prevention.

This means identifying a cluster of related cases and controlling further transmission by retracing close contacts.

There is not yet any sign of community spread, meaning cases that can’t be traced back to a previous case.

Medical officers are diligently searching for signs of this, and see community spread as an “imminent threat” that reinforces the importance of physical distancing.

“We should behave as if COVID-19 is already circulating widely in our community,” Hanley said.

“It isn’t, but we should behave as if it is.”

Hanley said the Yukon is still ahead of the curve, and that self-isolation after travel is a necessity, not a recommendation. 

Further measures made by the chief medical officer are in relation to dental services and mine workers.

Starting last Friday, dental practices have been ordered to suspend all non-urgent treatment until further notice. This move is intended to protect Yukoners and dental care providers from the spread of infection.

Workers at placer or hard rock mines, exploration camps or other business related to mining are required to self-isolate for 14 days after entering the territory.

Workers cannot carry out their regular duties in a camp or at a mine while self-isolating.

Hanley also expanded on last week’s announcement of “low risk” exposure of COVID-19 at the Bethany Church and Elias Dental. He said Yukoners should expect more of these announcements, as investigations are ongoing.

Certain settings will be described as “low risk” because they are more transient and people are unlikely to have spent a lot of time in these areas. Other factors include the closeness and length of contact time.

Essential workers are exempt from self-isolation requirements, and have been asked to closely self-monitor for symptoms. This includes continuing care and health care workers returning from travel.

Hanley said an official list of essential workers will be published shortly. He clarified that health care workers are subject to individualized risk assessments before returning to work.

Asymptomatic transmission, or transmission of the disease before falling sick, is a “minor” presence in the pandemic, Hanley said. The majority of transmission is through people experiencing symptoms.

He noted that asymptomatic transmission has more impact in communities facing intense outbreaks, and the Yukon has not yet reached that point.

Hanley expressed gratitude to community members for adopting distancing rules and supporting others during a challenging time.

“The more I think and read about COVID, the more I think of this as a war and the conditions that we’re living in as being close to wartime measures,” Hanley said. 

“How fortunate, then, that we’re not killing each other, but working together against a common enemy. 

“To win, just as for any war, we need to be very deliberate with our strategy: we need to be tactical, organized and one step ahead of the invisible enemy. 

“We are the soldiers and we are the home guard…. We’ll do this together.”

See commentaries, letters.

Comments (19)

Up 6 Down 2

Arturs on Apr 3, 2020 at 7:48 pm

Anyone want Ford over Trudeau for Prime Minister? Sure you do.

Up 6 Down 2

Boyd Campbell on Apr 3, 2020 at 5:16 pm

Ontario releases their modeling numbers which was being pressured by the media. They complied, but that just orchestrated the next move as the prize gets bigger. They immediately played the Prime Minister off against Ford to sensationize the story as the Feds have no numbers to release. Great work CBC, thats why most people get their news from late night!!

Up 13 Down 5

Groucho d'North on Apr 3, 2020 at 10:23 am

Since this Covid issue came to a head governments have not done a good job of sharing information with the public. Some are better than others, such as Doug Ford who will lay the cards on the table later today, whereas Trudeau is still playing games with information Canadians have a right to know. It is backfiring as many now believe the information junior is witholding must be so bad he doesn't want to share it, so their imaginations are running to the worst case scenarios causing more panic and angst for the public. It's a simple thing: The lack of information promotes imagination.
Ford is demonstrating leadership - warts and all, Trudeau is trying to spin the messages so people think happy thoughts and may ignore the very real risks.
The public is judging the performance of governments in this pandemic, a large part is about trust and how that trust is demonstrated by the deeds and words of political leaders, and those who aspire to be.

Up 12 Down 6

Max Mack on Apr 3, 2020 at 10:03 am

The Civil Emergency Measures Act provides that an emergency can be declared in the case of an epidemic.
An epidemic is "a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time."

Please explain to me where the widespread infection by COVID exists in the Yukon? I'm sure journalists can throw a few soft-ball questions to Hanley and Silver and have them answer the basic question about the legal basis of their so-called "emergency declaration".

Up 14 Down 1

Boyd Campbell on Apr 3, 2020 at 8:40 am

So some people think this is a one in 100 year event. Read much? The 18 flu killed an estimated 30 to 50 million people. The 56 flu killed 2 million people. The 69 flu killed 1 million people. Then we had Sars and H1N1 that killed 10s of thousands of people. Apparently we are winning not losing. Do what your being requested to do and the numbers will go down.

Up 16 Down 4

Miles Epanhauser on Apr 2, 2020 at 2:19 am

I wonder what will happen if the virus infects one of the vulnerable people who frequent the centre of hope.

Up 9 Down 6

Miles Epanhauser on Apr 1, 2020 at 7:52 pm

The City of Whitehorse should weigh in a little more since they represent a large Yukon population base.

Up 12 Down 2

I B Wundren on Apr 1, 2020 at 7:02 am

Dear Mr. Wales - The reason is simple. It centres on the element of choice. One does not choose the Covid but one does choose the candy.

Up 16 Down 9

Jc on Mar 31, 2020 at 5:48 pm

Well, that's 2 states of emergency the Liberals have declared this year. What's next? Maybe it's time to seek refugee status in another country.

Up 18 Down 7

Capitan on Mar 31, 2020 at 3:52 pm

I am reluctant to pile on politicians dealing with difficult circumstances. But I felt sick when Silver announced he was invoking the Civil Emergency Act and then could do no better in terms of explanation than read the legislation verbatim. And shame on the journalists for being so incurious. What is going to look different for us between last week and now, due to that legislation? I doubt if Silver even knows. I guess it's all day to day. If certain parties overreach, as they did in the UK, what hope do we have in this docile territory, than anyone will do anything about it?

Dave White interviewed Michael Bryant of the Civil Liberties Union, or whatever it is, and Bryant made a comment that the territories' emergency legislation is more sweeping than federal legislation. Then he didn't want to elaborate, as he didn't want to comment on the territories.

A few weeks ago, Silver derided the opposition, in his inimitable way, and refused to get a committee together to discuss the steps that might be taken. If he had deigned to participate with something like that, we might have a clue why he decided now, and what it means, for the territory to be under this legislation for the next three months. But maybe we all have a Survey Monkey to look forward to.

As for people asking for more penalties, surely he can do better than just report on what we already know, that a certain number of people in the Yukon would very much like to slam people in jail for the crime of being ill, or at least bankrupt them. There's good reason not to do that, but apparently Silver is not interested in advocating for common sense.

Up 11 Down 3

Anie on Mar 31, 2020 at 3:35 pm

Mike I think you have raised some good questions. But Gov Yukon doesn't have a person who reads and responds to comments here. Maybe the media could hire a reporter to ask your questions of the appropriate person... Yeah, not going to happen

Up 10 Down 6

Alan on Mar 31, 2020 at 2:36 pm

To MIke: I'm with you on this one. Someone in a hi rise complex in Hong Kong caught the virus. They self quarantined, and someone three floors up caught it through the interconnected ventilator system. I've advised YHC about seniors housing regarding this possibility. I advised the Minister for Health to close Yukon Campgrounds. I wrote a comment about people coming to Yukon to escape the virus cities. Someone thought this was a joke, and that I was suggesting people with the virus would be flocking to the Yukon looking for a hospital bed. Next thing we hear about the Quebec couple landing in Old Crow.
I still haven't heard about campground closures to protect small communities from travelers looking to escape the virus. We the concerned public that are not buying into 'this is just another flu' need to start becoming more vocal and demanding the truth about the real situation. Someone in my seniors residence threw down keys to a man in the back entrance. I saw this same man picking cigarette buts out of an ashtray on the facing wall. After I shouted out, the tenant came to my room to explain. The visitor is here to play chess. What am I to do I've got no one to play chess with! Well, does he wash his hands, do you wash the chess pieces, do you sit two meters apart. |The man is touching door handle, elevator buttons. He looks like a shelter resident.

Up 47 Down 7

Crunch on Mar 31, 2020 at 11:00 am

There is obviously pots of money available if you declare an emergency. You can't tap into them unless you play the game.

Up 16 Down 46

Mike on Mar 31, 2020 at 9:39 am

48 thumbs down - I wasn't talking to you, I was asking a question about a actual event that never went public so either you're all government officials or people who will lose money at the thought of extended lockdown. Either way I wasn't commenting for your approval I'm directing this question to our government. You may think this is a minor infraction of disclosure to the public but I think otherwise so to our YUKON GOVERNMENT, WHY WEREN'T WE TOLD?

Up 36 Down 24

Josey Wales on Mar 31, 2020 at 8:55 am

Trigger warning...grammar blows, reading comprehension required.
All folks lacking cognitive skills creating incoherence in a story are suggested to seek a safe and happy place where only things you like are spoken of.

That said...Too late...on the not meaning to alarm angle, clearly.
Fear is a great motivator, tyrannical governments through out history have used it to control “their subjects” with great success...till it fails.

This COVID 19 virus (CHINA VIRUS) in my opinion...is just a great crisis the state would never let waste.
5,000 folks a year die in Canada via obesity related disease.
300,000 folks die each year in America via obesity related disease too.

Imagine a disease one chews their way into, so effectively killing folks!
Yet no calls to ban the cheeseburger or the Flat screen TV?
No government mandated closing of buffets and candy bar factories?
No global shutdown of a economy because so many folks cannot see their feet without a mirror?
Not a shaming thing, just some rational perspective in a time of absolute hysteria where...
The mere rustle of the grass, proclamation from a state actor...the sheep get restless, fearful a wolf is lurking.

Up 17 Down 24

Matthew on Mar 31, 2020 at 8:14 am

Wake up folks.. marshal law is here! All in the name of... nothing! 72 deaths nationwide, again 1000x more people died of the flu, and 2000x + more died from complications related to toxic, carcinogenic chemical based argiculture they think is safe!

Up 53 Down 11

Dave on Mar 31, 2020 at 7:14 am

The Yukon government and Dr. Hanley have already destroyed much of their credibility with Yukoners due to their attempts to 'handle' risk information. It is apparent to most people who are following national and worldwide events including social distancing and self isolation rules that the official message here in Yukon was spun at least to some extent. In todays age of instant worldwide information there is no way an official can attempt to falsely minimize risk which is what we saw happen concerning that initial Air North flight with the Coronavirus infected couple on it.

Up 49 Down 26

Max Mack on Mar 30, 2020 at 4:56 pm

I hold Silver and Hanley directly responsible for the sense of panic that has taken hold in the Yukon. What exactly do they think declaring an "emergency" will do? Shuttering businesses by the dozens, possibly hundreds? Misleading people with scary information about this virus?

From the story: "The premier said he has received an onslaught of requests to implement penalties and enforcement procedures for physical distancing and self-isolation rules." In light of Silver and Hanley's misinformation, what else do they expect people to do but demand tougher action?

This is not a 'Contagion' level virus and many experts are saying that this virus is no more deadly than the seasonal flu. The vast majority of people that become infected are asymptomatic or have mild to moderate symptoms.

Up 50 Down 86

Mike on Mar 30, 2020 at 4:34 pm

Again I will ask why nothing is being said about the Air North plane that landed on march 14th flight 4N2570 where it clearly states rows 4 through 10 are at risk which by the way is not true - the whole flight is at risk as circulated air for 2 and a half hours on a plane is more then enough time to infect everyone on the flight. Why hasn't our Government or Air North publicly come out and asked for everyone on that flight to be tested. How much more clearer can I be? This is not a fear mongering tactic, this is a father and grandfather with children with compromised immune systems and has anyone on that plane been near anyone in my family?

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