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Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean and Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent

Notifications about COVID in a school would be limited

Questions over how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic continued to bedevil the Yukon government Wednesday in the legislature.

By Tim Giilck on November 26, 2020

Questions over how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic continued to bedevil the Yukon government Wednesday in the legislature. Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent ( Copperbelt South) pressed the government on how it plans to handle alerting the public if a case or outbreak occurs at a school.

“The government has stated that, if there is a case in a school, not everyone who attends that school will be notified,” Kent said.

“We’ve heard from a number of school communities that are very concerned with this approach. They feel that this information is needed to make decisions about their health and safety and the health and safety of their kids.

“Why does the government not think it is necessary to notify everyone who attends a school if there are positive cases discovered there?” Kent asked.

“It was reported that, instead of notifying everyone at a school that a case was discovered there, administrators would only be notified on a confidential basis.

“This means that parents, students, and, of course, teachers might never find out if there are positive COVID-19 cases discovered in their school. Teachers may have been exposed as they move throughout the school or have supervision responsibilities at recess.”

The question was answered by Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean. She said the government defers to the Yukon Communicable Disease Control Unit (YCDC) and its policies when it comes to handling such issues.

“The Yukon Communicable Disease Control Unit will identify and directly notify anyone who has been in close contact with that case,” McLean said.

“They will provide direction on who should stay home and self-isolate. A confirmed case will not necessarily mean that a school will be closed. Again, YCDC will provide direction on who needs to stay home and isolate, which may include specific classes or groups of students.”

After Kent continued to ask questions on the issue, McLean reiterated the government follows the lead of territorial medical professionals when it comes to setting notification policies.

“We are following the lead of the chief medical officer of health (Dr. Brendan Hanley). He is an expert in this field,” McLean said.

That did little to mollify Kent. He noted that other jurisdictions, notably Alberta and British Columbia, make public notifications of schools that have had positive cases or outbreaks.

That’s a distinctly different approach than what the Yukon is seeing, Kent said. He continued to question why there is such a disparity in information on the virus that is being made public.

McLean didn’t rise to the bait – nor did she change her answer.

“If there is a confirmed case in Yukon, the Yukon Communicable Disease Control Unit will identify and directly notify everyone who has been in close contact with that case,” she told the legislature.

“They will provide direction on who should stay home and self-isolate. A confirmed case will not necessarily mean that a school will be closed.”

She added the approach the government is taking is drawn from a need to respect privacy issues surrounding personal health information of anyone who is infected. It’s a balancing act between accommodating the intense interest in the pandemic and respecting those privacy issues, she added.

“We are not Alberta,” McLean said.

Yukon Party critics also continued to press the government for an explanation as to why it failed to publish notices on its website that passengers on three recent Air North flights had suffered potential exposure to the virus.

Air North published the information on its website and social media last weekend – yet no information appeared on the official government website.

The matter first came up earlier in the week, and questions were addressed to Pauline Frost, the minister of Health and Social Services.

At that time, Frost said it “wasn’t her responsibility” to make sure that information appeared.

That answer didn’t sit well with the Yukon Party, whose members continued to attack Frost Wednesday afternoon.

The continued questions prompted Premier Sandy Silver to rise to defend Frost.

“I believe that the minister spoke very eloquently today about the shared responsibilities,” he said.

“I want to thank her for her leadership on that, making sure that she is one part of a collaborative government on that when it comes to not only the pandemic response, but Health and Social Services reaching out and through her leadership in housing as well, and her many partners in governments across Yukon and nationally. It is an extraordinary job on so many different fronts.”

Comments (15)

Up 3 Down 1

Martin on Dec 2, 2020 at 8:56 am

Dr Brennan's double standard is noticeable. He wants for us to work from home; but schools will remain open and if there is a contagious episode there, we won't deserve to know about it. I heard the news today that YG's employees are positive; how?. TG offices' are like a fortress; most of them work from home (maybe they spend too much time downtown and shopping, instead of in front of their station?)

Up 2 Down 4

JC on Dec 1, 2020 at 11:10 am

Actually Dr. Hanley just won the draw. Or lost.

Up 5 Down 5

Juniper Jackson on Dec 1, 2020 at 9:33 am

I totally agree with all posters, to ask the Government to be accountable on all levels. Health, Finance, Justice. Somewhere along the line.. we let the horse ride us. I don't think enough people want to be back in the saddle for citizenry to take back control of government. Too bad for our kids, and future generations. They won't even be able to read about 'how it used to be' because government now censors all school books and when Grandma and Grandpa die, there won't be anyone left to tell about it either.

Up 9 Down 8

James Carey Truman on Nov 28, 2020 at 10:37 am

Forget about it already. You are being fed a mass delusion. The government is telling people to self isolate on the one hand while family members who live in the same household bubble are going to work, shopping downtown, and generally cavorting with others.

And we have a lot of people accepting that, Duh, which way did he go George?
We are all just bit actors in a Reality Show spin-off... Dumb and Dumber - The Saga Continues.

Up 9 Down 5

Lynx on Nov 27, 2020 at 7:29 pm

The government really can't win when it comes to schools.

1) you have groups of enraged parents (as well as Scott Kent and Kate White) screaming to jam the rest of the high school students from grade 10-12 back into buildings full time.
2) You have a growing number of people demanding schools be shut down completely amid the growing Covid cases.

I don't know which position is correct but its clear the Education Minister "will be darned if she do and darned if she don't" ha ha

Up 41 Down 9

Matthew on Nov 27, 2020 at 5:15 am

What exactly has the government been doing these 8 months!? They've told us 7 months ago a 2nd wave IS coming this winter... so I ask again, what did the gov do all summer except collect their massive salaries while watching the rest of us struggle..

Up 33 Down 5

Stop the secrecy on Nov 26, 2020 at 10:18 pm

Dear government: We, the teachers, parents and students wish for you to be accountable to us, within our school communities. Giving confidential information to administrators is not acceptable--we will never see it. For those of us working with students, we have a right to know. I would not stay at work if there was even one positive case in my work place. And you will keep me in the dark because you think that keeping schools open trumps letting educators make decisions about their own health if positive people are in the building?
Maybe all of the educators should walk off of the job for a week-that would send a clear message that we are not a baby-sitting service with no regard for our health! We love our jobs and want to work. But...this is not the flu, Yukon Government. This is a horrible virus that has put some people (young, healthy people) in the hospital for 3 months or in the ground. So if you want to keep us in school working, give us full COVID protective suits, give the students plexiglass barriers, and start protecting your employees! Too little too late. And lots of students are wandering around without any regard for COVID restrictions--better look into that and send the ones who can't abide home until the pandemic is done.
You say you can't share the information with us? Hog wash. Wrong decision. And yes, the rumour mill will have us leaving our jobs on mass. You don't want to go there.

Up 11 Down 22

Mike Travill on Nov 26, 2020 at 9:41 pm

Mr Kent wants us to be like Alberta with thousands of new cases daily and a decimated health care system because of Conservative mismanagement.
We would all love to know everyone else personal failings. Put yourself in a child’s place where they may or may not have knowingly been the cause of an outbreak and the long standing damage this victimizing of the child would have. Please curb your desire for gossip and accept the healthcare professionals care for our children’s physical and mental health.

Up 31 Down 2

Dee M on Nov 26, 2020 at 7:58 pm

Well this is ludicrous there's no way you can be exactly sure to whom a child was or wasn't in direct contact with at any given time in a public school. A notice should be sent home with every child attending there if covid 19 is a real pandemic issue. Failing to do so will continue to spread unfortunately... Putting a lot of vulnerable people at risk. Shame on you Yukon government. Shame!!

Up 25 Down 2

Proactive prevention on Nov 26, 2020 at 7:37 pm

So long as YCDC and our government is unwilling to admit that we have community transmission, we will continue to see our numbers climb and continue to react to the virus instead of getting ahead of it. We are not exempt from the virus up here. The alert with the federal app was made specifically to prevent these situations. I would rather share my information with the app than lose my spouse to this virus.

Up 15 Down 12

Max Mack on Nov 26, 2020 at 7:23 pm

Dr. Hanley is an expert "in this field"? Really? Which field, exactly.

What studies, research or evidence did Hanley consider when he made the recommendation to mandate masks? How did Hanley weigh this evidence when he decided to impose mask-wearing when there is almost zero infection rate for a virus with near zero death rate?

Or, did he simply cave to political pressure?
Enquiring minds want to know. Unlike our media, which seems to have forgotten their job . . .

Up 34 Down 2

Guncache on Nov 26, 2020 at 6:34 pm

If I get the Covid I will personally publish my name on social media. While I could list who I was in contact with, I might miss someone. People have a right to know.

Up 23 Down 8

JC on Nov 26, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Typical of the new age socialist Liberals - keep people in the dark about everything important. Don't want to lose control. Welcome to the "Great Reset".

Up 76 Down 3

Humble Measure on Nov 26, 2020 at 1:27 pm

If government won't notify the public, the rumour mill will. I hope they will rethink this one.

Up 65 Down 5

TMYK on Nov 26, 2020 at 12:36 pm

The Yukon Liberals continue to take credit for the bureaucracies work while waving off responsibility to the same people. You can't have it both ways.

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