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Premier Sandy Silver

‘Now is not the time to panic,’ says premier

The Yukon’s ministers doubled down Tuesday on assurances that the territory is well-prepared for the threat of COVID-19.

By Gabrielle Plonka on March 11, 2020

The Yukon’s ministers doubled down Tuesday on assurances that the territory is well-prepared for the threat of COVID-19.

“Now is not the time to panic,” Premier Sandy Silver told the legislature during Tuesday’s question period.

“It is important to remember that the risk in Yukon and in Canada is considered to be low and that there have been no confirmed cases in Yukon…. We are extremely prepared.”

Silver had planned to travel to Ottawa to meet with premiers and the Prime Minister today, but called the trip off this afternoon out of “an abundance of caution.” The meeting had intended to co-ordinate a “national response” to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Silver responded to questions alongside Pauline Frost, the minister of Health, and Jeanie Dendys, the minister of Tourism and Culture, on the Yukon’s preparedness for potential hospital influxes and tourism dips.

Patti McLeod, the Yukon Party MLA for Watson Lake, questioned whether the hospital is prepared for a Yukon outbreak of the virus.

She noted that Whitehorse General Hospital is often already at capacity, suggesting there wouldn’t be space for patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

Frost responded that Yukoners should “rest assured” that necessary supports will be provided if an outbreak occurs. She said her department is taking the lead of the acting Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Elliott. 

Silver added to the response that the budget for 2020-21 includes more funding for the Yukon Hospital Corp.

Stacey Hassard, the interim leader of the Yukon Party, questioned the territory’s preparedness for an expected tourism fallout.

Mélanie Joly, the federal Minister of Tourism, told reporters in Montreal last week that revenue from Chinese tourism is expected to dip $550 million in Canada this year.

Last Sunday, the federal public health officer recommended that Canadians avoid cruises.

Referencing these, Hassard asked how the Yukon’s Tourism department will prepare for the downturn and “collapse” of the cruise ship industry.

Dendys responded that her department is working with Destination Canada and the territory’s chief medical officer to “assess the situation.”

She added that they have been in talks with Holland America, a cruise line with routes to Alaska, on a daily basis.

“We are adjusting as we go,” Dendys said.

“This is a very fluid situation that is happening in Canada.”

Dendys repeated Silver’s assertion that Yukoners should not panic. She also refuted Hassard’s notion that the cruise ship industry is collapsing.

“There is great concern –– absolutely. We are working on different scenarios with our partners around how to mitigate this,” Dendys said. 

Although there is an anticipated drop in Chinese tourism, Dendys said, the Yukon has a diverse tourism market that will help to balance the scales. She said the Yukon does not “fully rely” on the Asian market.

For the second day in a row, NDP Leader Kate White questioned whether the government will work to implement paid sick leave.

She noted that retail and hospitality workers aren’t able to work from home, as has been recommended in other Canadian jurisdictions, to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

John Streicker, the minister of Community Services, said the territory is working with the federal government on employment insurance to support workers. A change to paid sick leave would require a change in territorial legislation, he said. 

He added that he “opened the conversation” with his department Tuesday morning, and is willing to consider the change.

In the meantime, he touted the pending $1 increase to the minimum wage, which he said will support service-industry workers.

The wage will rise to $13.71 on April 1. In 2019, the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition pegged a family’s living wage at more than $19 per hour.

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Comments (25)

Up 0 Down 0

Karl on Mar 17, 2020 at 9:49 pm

Josey, surely you know as soon you invoke Godwin's Law, everything you say after that is irrelevant.

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SarahW on Mar 17, 2020 at 5:09 pm

"Now is not the time to panic". You bonehead. Of course don't panic. But also - DO SOMETHING. Stop deferring to Hanley. Get us some federal money to help the small businesses that can't stay open. People are going to lose their homes and their shirts.

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Trevor Braun on Mar 17, 2020 at 4:17 pm

I just cut short my vacation and returned to the Yukon today. I left last week before things really went south. Things are changing very quickly. I apologize to all my fellow Yukoners for leaving last week. I should not have waited for different governments to make announcements. I should have been pro active based on what happened else where in the world. WE are all responsible for our decisions. We have known about this Virus for months, we know things change quickly. We (which includes a BIG ME) have been slow to accept the realities of the implications as for now it's not here based on NO confirmed positive tests. WE must change that thought pattern. My return flight gave me much time to reflect, there were many vulnerable people on each of the 3 flights I had to take to return home.
It was not a great feeling thinking what if I had been exposed in the last few days and passed it on to an older person. It's not a great feeling. I feel fine and don't think I have been exposed but ONLY time will tell. If I could turn back time and not leave last week I would- but I can't. I can and I will effectively self isolate. But what I saw out there in the BIG WORLD is many, many people are not taking things seriously, we are forcing Governments to take action first. Why are we doing this- so hard to know. Why are we still allowing Visitors into the Yukon- Why are tour operators still accepting visitors? It's crazy!! In the Calgary airport there was a US Tourist right in front of me at the Customs counter- when asked why he was coming into Canada he said he was here to "LOOK AROUND" for 4 days!! WTF he must have got a cheap flight but why was he allowed to proceed?

Up 6 Down 4

Josey Wales on Mar 16, 2020 at 1:33 pm

Geez...still with ewe eh BnR? Thanks I guess?

Go grab a Canadian Oxford Dictionary in between your next emotional hysteria event, clearly “triggered” by dissent.
Peruse it with your brain engaged, not your emotions nnnnKay?

There are no errors in my spelling of that tyrant that is absolutely decimating a once great country.
Maybe next time your strike may land, this time ...not so much.
Oh yeah...a communist is just a socialist that really really means it.

While you're in that reference, look up socialist and communist too.
Seems you were a tad challenged in your snipe of June too?
A six year old non contextual reference....really BnR...ca mon man!

Up 12 Down 12

BnR on Mar 16, 2020 at 8:05 am

"Don’t panic? too late, many of us have been tripping balls since that soy boys coronation in Ottawa.
I know SS is not the Fuehrer, but march in line he and his comrades do... "

Well done Josey "soy boys" and a misspelled fuherer all in one neat package.

Up 15 Down 4

B. Prepared not Scared on Mar 14, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Hey Dave - Better get some TP as well. Coffee is a laxative. Regardless of priorities one should be practical.

Up 29 Down 5

Dave on Mar 14, 2020 at 8:18 am

If I was going to panic buy anything it would be coffee not toilet paper! Seriously people get your panic buying priorities straight, don't just follow the herd to the toilet paper display.

Up 12 Down 20

Atom on Mar 13, 2020 at 12:22 pm

To anyone commenting on the state of the world reC19 with criticisms and no substance to any argument, (yes you...add name) stay home and continue to type your drivel.
You are obviously without prospect in life and the proof is in the offering.
Please don't panic, but you only get one life, and to witness you confirm the waste of it, is of no concern....to anyone.

Up 41 Down 10

Salt on Mar 13, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Yukon Cornelius has the gist of it. Saying that the Yukon is low risk is absolutely ridiculous. Ross River, maybe, but definitely not Whitehorse. More than likely it is already here and spreading. Silver is making meaningless politician noises out of his mouth as opposed to having an adult conversation about reality. Leadership makes all the difference and we have an utter lack of it at all levels of Canadian govt, regardless of party.

Up 30 Down 14

Josey Wales on Mar 12, 2020 at 9:45 pm

Don’t panic? too late, many of us have been tripping balls since that soy boys coronation in Ottawa.
I know SS is not the Fuehrer, but march in line he and his comrades do...

I cynical like, carried the opinion for years that we were getting engineered to levels of cognitive dissonance off the charts.
I seriously think that voting, living, advocating for team red...LPC is akin to a mental illness.
The “Corona virus” is really low on our concerns, or should be.
There was a bigger virus bred, incubated even and spread through Canada waaaay back. P.E.T. Virus it was, so well fed it split off to a strain I think in Cuba carried by a power groupie in the early seventies.

So many folks completely ignorant of history, too new to care of it, keep chugging that Kool Aid and voting for complete idiots.
Of which no reference specific to SS just his team of entitled globalist tea baggers.

Up 51 Down 12

Anie on Mar 12, 2020 at 1:34 pm

Panic won't help. But let's be realistic about a couple of things. First, the Yukon is not a very clean place. It probably holds the Canadian record for unflushed toilets per capita, and we know that people here do not wash their hands. And don't get me started on the Canada Games Centre - it used to be a stellar example of clean, but some years ago they went for a cheaper contract and it's just a lick and a promise. The ladies change room at the pool is disgusting. Second, the capacity of the hospital is what, 53 beds? And I bet half are already full, for 30,000 people. I'm not counting the Dawson and Watson Lake units, whatever they are called, they won't be much help. Wow, if the virus hits the Yukon there will be a problem, and it's time to have a real discussion rather than feel good rhetoric.

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Groucho d'North on Mar 12, 2020 at 10:36 am

I agree with those that say the Yukon has a low risk exposure to the coronavirus, That means low- not impossible. I do question the government's use of the word "preparedeness" Does it mean prepared to be proactive in preventing the virus from infecting Yukoners OR prepared to attend and treat Yukoners who have been infected with the virus? If hospitals are already at capacity, where will infected people be located- or is it to be a stay at home isolation program? I expect the YG unions will soon take a position in protecting their memebership of teachers, hospital workers and front line staff to minimize their risk exposure.
I certainly hope YG is not following the lead of the federal Liberals who are clearly making it up as they go along with the motto: Popularity first- protection after. There should already be visitation protocols in place for the various seniors homes to protect against spreading the garden variety influenza as well as Covid-19. Time to share some planning information Sandy so concerned people can have some level of assurance the government is on the job.
"Fortune favors the prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur

Up 34 Down 4

Wilf Carter on Mar 12, 2020 at 10:33 am

People with heart problems, immune system weakened, lung issues, type 1 BD are at higher risk. But the CV 19 has surpassed the death rate of the flu based how many get it and die. Just stay calm and take care of yourself. By the way, toilet paper help is on the way PNG is running three shifts to keep up. What is it with the toilet paper anyway?? Folks there is an 811 number in Yukon you can phone if your have health concerns. This is to help people who have to see a doctor.

Up 44 Down 2

Ginger Johnson on Mar 12, 2020 at 10:32 am

"‘Now is not the time to panic,’ says premier"

Panic buying has reached the absurd level of Yukoners trying to sell toilet paper on kijiji.ca for scalper prices

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Update on Mar 12, 2020 at 10:20 am

Well Maybe they may start to think we are not quite as prepared as they have been saying...things are starting to hit a little closer to home Trudeau is now self-isolating while his wife Sophie is waiting for her CoVID-19 results

Up 31 Down 16

Obi on Mar 12, 2020 at 10:15 am

“Now is not the time to panic”
That sounds like plagiarism of a Donald Trump tweet!

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Matthew on Mar 12, 2020 at 7:02 am

Again.. dont be scared by a simole virus! The flu kills more, besides, ALL virus' dont grow in balanced pH environments, ONLY grow in acidic ones! This is common knowledge. Balance bodies pH with baking soda! Prove me wrong, right, you cant!

Up 50 Down 19

Juniper Jackson on Mar 12, 2020 at 1:10 am

I actually don’t know anyone that’s panicking except the government. And I do not believe for a second that they are prepared for the virus to hit here..which it will. Trudeau has done nothing, absolutely nothing to protect Canada. He even sent 6 or 16 tonnes, depending what paper you are reading, of medical protection gear to China. Leaving Canada short and no replacement in sight as supply companies are unable to fill the orders. The best advice is the same for flu..be clean, wash your hands, stay away from sick people..the common sense things we should do all the time.

Up 57 Down 27

E. Nuff on Mar 11, 2020 at 10:22 pm

Yes, now is not the time to panic. The time for panic is long past. We must somehow get over the realization that Silver’s Liberals were elected. Now is the time for cooler heads to prevail so we can get a collective grip and return some semblance of sanity to the Yukon!

Vote - Anything but Liberal!

Up 54 Down 12

Guncache on Mar 11, 2020 at 9:12 pm

Silver and Frost are assuring us everything is under control yet won't tell us what those assurances are

Up 48 Down 11

SheepChaser on Mar 11, 2020 at 8:29 pm

The more they say rest assured, the less competent they look. If you're all so 'extremely prepared', release the plans publically. Can we stop hearing from politicians and get more experts in the mix, please?

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Max Fraser on Mar 11, 2020 at 7:33 pm

I'm wondering when there will be a plan to deal with the shortages caused by panic buying. This is getting serious.

Up 31 Down 19

Yukon Cornelius on Mar 11, 2020 at 5:43 pm

Given the fact that Whitehorse International Airport has 54 weekly flight arrivals (7,005 passengers weekly) from Vancouver, BC which has a large population of people who, in the last 40 days (the incubation period of Coronavirus) would have been in close, personal contact with people who travelled to / from China during Lunar New Year celebrations, what's the Emergency Plan for the Yukon, Pauline? (cue the sound of crickets)

Unless every single person who's travelled through YVR and landed at Whitehorse International Airport since the Lunar New Year celebrations has been tested for Coronavirus, we must assume that Coronavirus is already in the Yukon and has been for at least 2 months. As an aside, 2 weeks ago 28 countries had active cases of Coronavirus. As of this morning 114 countries on 5 continents have active cases of Coronavirus with 20 people out of every 100 infected hospitalized for 2 - 3 weeks and placed on ventilators and between 3 and 5 out of those 20 people dying from COVID-19 disease. But not to worry, Yukoners 'cause Sandy (the high school math teacher who doesn't understand statistics) has everything under control.


Up 54 Down 12

Oya on Mar 11, 2020 at 5:35 pm

If the Minister of Tourism thinks only the "Asian" market is going to be affected, she might want to think again. Hint: check out what's going on in Italy this week.

We can see YG is not taking this virus seriously. They just sent how many employees to Toronto to PDAC right in the middle of all this. I mean, really?

"Extremely prepared"? The health care system here is overtaxed already. Where will all the sick people go if we get an influx? Not many ICU beds, I don't think. What are some of the strategies they have planned? That's a story I would like to read, Whitehorse Star.

Up 20 Down 44

JC on Mar 11, 2020 at 5:32 pm

Yukoners and Canadians are not panicking, but the politicians seem to be. It's just a mild virus that will fizzle out in time like all the rest that were Scientist created in BioWar labs. In a couple or so years there'll be another. As long as there are Scientists that work in BioWar labs there will be new virus'. Since we can't do anything about it, just move on and enjoy our daily lives.

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