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NDP Leader Kate White

Teachers, parents called ‘shocked’ by decision

The Department of Education has told Yukon parents it will no longer inform them of COVID-19 exposures in the schools.

By Tim Giilck on January 14, 2022

The Department of Education has told Yukon parents it will no longer inform them of COVID-19 exposures in the schools.

The Star has obtained a letter to parents from assistant deputy minister Ryan Sikkes.

“With the introduction of rapid antigens tests as well as the current number of active COVID-19 cases currently in Yukon, Yukon Communicable Disease Control will be making changes to how they conduct their case follow-up activities,” Sikkes wrote.

“In the context of schools, this means a shift to school-based surveillance and away from individual case and contact management.

“In the coming days, YCDC will decrease the amount of case and contact management work that is done for the schools and will no longer be issuing school exposure notifications.”

Parents were emailed the announcement about the major policy change on Wednesday evening.

That day, Dr. Catherine Elliott, the acting chief medical officer of health, and Tracy-Anne McPhee, the minister of Health and Social Services, presided at the weekly COVID-19 briefing. Neither mentioned the planned elimination of school exposure alerts.

The Star requested elaboration on the decision from the government. No response was provided.

Ted Hupé, the president of the Yukon Association of Education Professionals, told the Star early this afternoon he spoke to Nicole Morgan, the deputy minister of Education, about the decision Thursday.

Hupé said the decision and lack of communication shocked him, his membership and parents.

It’s a complete departure from the approach of the last two years, which saw government and public health officials focused intensely on tracking and managing virus numbers and cases, he noted.

Hupé said he understands the decision, after a fashion. Public officials are overwhelmed and can’t keep up with case numbers anymore, so a new approach was needed.

However, Hupé said the only way he can see the situation working for schools in the territory is for the Department of Education to give principals the power to make-on-fly decision to keep their schools open or to switch to online learning – or even close them if the number of absent staff and students is high enough.

“This puts us in a real bind,” Hupé said. “All of this is landing on the principals. We’re in a pickle if we don’t have a timely response. COVID anxiety is very high among teachers and parents.”

He said Morgan agreed that is a worthwhile idea – but he has his doubts as to whether the department would go for the idea.

Hupé said it has a long tradition of keeping close control of schools rather than embracing any independence for them, and that’s not likely to change.

“We have to be able to react nimbly and quickly,” he said.

In his letter, Sikkes went on to refer to the new rapid tests being made available to the general public by the government.

“If a student or staff member receives a positive result from an at-home test, continue to self-isolate for the appropriate number of days provided in the rapid test instructions, and follow the directions provided on the management of household contacts,” he wrote.

“There is no need to report the result to Yukon Communicable Disease Control (CDC). Students and staff who test positive to COVID-19 are not required to notify the school or others at school of their positive result.

“To protect personal privacy, schools also cannot release individual contact information for the purpose of an individual (staff, student or parent/guardian) seeking to notify others of their test result.”

Yukon schools, Sikkes added, “remain low-risk settings because they are controlled settings and have Operational Plans for Communicable Disease which follow the chief medical officer of health’s K-12 school guidelines for 2021-22: COVID-19.”

Sikkes added that “if you are contacting your school to notify them of your absence and that you require support with remote learning, you can let the school know that your absence is due to illness and if you choose you may indicate it is due to a positive COVID-19 test.

“While most of our schools have transitioned back to in-person learning, some are pivoting to remote learning based on how many staff are available.

“We expect other schools to shift to remote learning for short periods due to similar circumstances. To help keep families updated, we have added a daily snapshot of which schools are remote learning to our webpage on school operations in the 2021-22 school year: COVID-19.”

The government’s policy change – and the method of communicating it – aren’t sitting well with the opposition parties.

“Amidst mass community spread and the worst outbreak the Yukon has seen to date, the government has decided it has had enough of exposure notices in schools,” the NDP stated in a news release this morning.

“In an email sent to parents on Wednesday evening, the Department of Education stated that: ‘In the coming days, YCDC will decrease the amount of case and contact management work that is done for the schools and will no longer be issuing school exposure notifications.’”

“This is a big change in policy direction and should have been communicated at the Wednesday press conference,” said NDP Leader Kate White.

“People are watching case counts explode, and they are worried. If there are changes being made in the approach to schools, the government needs to be up front about that.”

The NDP said it was not consulted about the change by the Liberals, whose government it’s propping up in the legislature.

White went on to say, “At a time when the CMOH (Elliott) is expecting to see more hospitalizations in the days to come, teachers, parents and school councils have been looking to the government to not only protect their children, but their communities and elders as well.

“With these changes, school administrators, educators and families can no longer make informed decisions about attendance in school or virtual learning.

“If this is the advice of the chief medical officer, then the government needs to be shouting it from the roof tops to inform the school communities,” said the NDP leader.

“Parents are trying to make the right decision for their kids and the government is making that difficult.

“These late-night emails continue to leave parents scrambling for options and piling on the stress.”

The Yukon Party also isn’t a fan of the announcement.

“This issue once again demonstrates the communication failures coming from the Liberal government regarding COVID-related information,” party representatives said in an email late this morning.

“The Education department and school system needs leadership at this time and it is noticeably absent.

“The Yukon Party reiterates Copperbelt South MLA Scott Kent’s call last week for the Education minister (Jeanie McLean) to show leadership and start providing updates and assurances to Yukoners about what is happening in our schools,” the party said.

“Any information provided about COVID in schools is useful for parents, and the government needs to explain why they would drop this useful tool to inform parents about the status of COVID at their child’s school.”

Some provinces have also opted to scrap school exposure alerts in favour of monitoring students and staff attendance rates.

Comments (37)

Up 0 Down 0

Hannah A on Jan 20, 2022 at 9:14 pm

Please make masks optional for our children.
https://www.sfgate.com/politics-op-eds/article/San-Francisco-policies-COVID-children-mask-school-16787963.php

If you're an adult and want to duct tape a n95 to your face, that's your choice.

There's no source on the mask recommendations that demonstrate that masks in a communal setting have been effective at decreasing c19 cases, hospitalizations or icu admissions. There *used* to be a link to this study - but all it demonstrated was that in a clinical setting with healthcare workers a surgical mask as as effective as an n95:
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/184819

Yukoners say they care about the environment?
https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2021-12-10/covid-face-mask-pollution-has-jumped-by-nearly-9000-per-cent/100685986

Up 14 Down 4

Groucho d'North on Jan 19, 2022 at 10:36 am

@Roy
You should be aware that being an apologist for any political party or program gets you labeled as a paid minion working in support of who is paying you. It is not an unheard of practice, but I doubt all those voicing their viewpoints here would be considered paid shills. You can see when the politicos have called upon their regular supporters to help tilt the perception of public support by voting the thumbs up or down on an articles printed here.
Lately it seems manipulating the public opinion is about covering their backsides from embarrassing errors, rather than informing the electorate about what is important. Five years at the job and they still perform like rookies, they need people to speak in support of them, and I'll bet these supporters are becoming harder to find...at any price.

Up 17 Down 29

Roy on Jan 17, 2022 at 10:17 am

@joe

Why is it like a game of wack-a-troll in here?
Everytime I post something someone replies with “you must be a paid liberal!” or “you must be NDP” etc., etc., etc.

Is that the best you can come up with to refute my facts? An assumption about what political party I support? Lame.
And then on top of that - when I reply to that assumption some other genius pops up and cries “Hey Roy! Why are you talking about your political party. We don’t care!”

Well which is it?
To be clear - for the 20th time - I’m not a liberal paid shill. The Liberal party sucks. A lot. So does the NDP. They can’t do anything right either.
The YP are a bunch of immature amateurs that couldn’t successfully run a lemonade stand without proper adult supervision.
So keep trying to make yourself feel better by saying “oh I’m going to ignore his pandemic facts because I bet he’s just a liberal” and then when I correct you on that keep saying “why are you mentioning politics?”

Get out of your Yukon bubble and see what the conservative premiers (Jason Kenny, etc.) have been doing. Then quit kidding yourself that the YP would have done anything different at all. They wouldn’t have.
And therefore, regardless of what party is in power, you would still be in the selfish fringe minority. Take care as that sinks in.

Up 46 Down 3

Jesse on Jan 17, 2022 at 9:00 am

"The NDP said it was not consulted about the change by the Liberals, whose government it’s propping up in the legislature." - Kate is not the official opposition but acts like she is - and by choosing to prop up the Liberals, who the NDP is in bed with, Kate and the NDP bear just as much responsibility as the Liberal government. Time to stop acting like the innocent party and time to stop propping up the Liberals. They've made their own bed - you either choose to walk away or lay in it and it's obvious you've already made your choice. Time for another NDP leader as you've been here too long already.

Up 23 Down 10

AdmiralA$$ on Jan 17, 2022 at 8:23 am

Another easy waste of time.

1. Deaths to be focused on because that is it what you and everyone else is focused on. How many deaths, how many headlines. Also, looks like your chronic boosters are going to be the cause of a lot of your chronic illness so says the WHO recently. To be perfectly frank I am not for or against the vaccines, again that is a personal choice I am here for the choices of the people.

2. Cherry picking and assumptions, that's pretty rich coming from you at this point. Also no I do not pretend in my mind this is a liberal only agenda. Just the vast majority of hypocrisies coming from that side of the spectrum. Not all of it however.

3. that line of thinking is called free and many of us think like that. Yes I pay my taxes too, you seemed to miss the point as normal. You are responsible for yourself the Government can not and will not look after you no matter how many taxes you pay them, no matter how many lies they spew or promises they give, but good luck with that line of thinking.

4. No again you missed my point and you still don't quite understand my point of view. I am asking for Government inaction to help solve this opiod problem. They pushed it upon the people they forced lock downs upon us they made the problem. Best thing to do would be to go away, and let the community deal with it and heal. See I don't like to talk out of both sides of my mouth.

My families made the roads you enjoy so much in this town and the road into this community.
Hope you had a pleasant weekend.

Up 26 Down 11

Joe on Jan 17, 2022 at 6:59 am

Roy is a paid liberal troll. Mantra “ of all bad choices liberal are the best” .

Up 37 Down 6

Elliott on Jan 16, 2022 at 10:19 pm

Hey @Roy,

Just to be clear, I'm vaccinated and I don't support you or draconian rules. I support freedom to choose and weigh the risk ourselves.

Up 22 Down 3

Expect a shut down on Jan 16, 2022 at 7:30 pm

Don’t worry. With the restrictions that are to start Tuesday and a school PD on Monday (at least at 1 school), you can bet that schools are getting shut down again.

Up 32 Down 2

Yukoner on Jan 16, 2022 at 5:50 pm

The NDP needs to take some accountability here, they are propping up the current Liberal government and allowing things like this to happen. Time to move past the sounds bite and actually affect some change.

Up 24 Down 35

Roy on Jan 16, 2022 at 11:38 am

@ass

1. Why do you only focus on deaths? Why do you continuously ignore the additional burden of chronic disease that covid has and will cause? Probably because it doesn’t support your position - a position only held by a small minority of selfish people on the fringe of society. Check the vax numbers for proof.

2. Cherry picking and assumptions are all you have. None of what you posted changes the fact that the YP or the Conservative premiers in Canada have enacted lockdowns and mandates - here in the tiny Yukon bubble you guys like to pretend this is a liberal only agenda - maybe see our furthest right province Alberta.

3. Good luck with that line of thinking. This puts you more in the 0.0005% of people - with good reason. Don’t worry - you can think that and the rest of us will still do our part which will in turn provide you the protection you pretend you don’t want/need but still directly benefit from.

4. Again the reason we have lost so few to covid is *because* we took action (something that has not been done properly for the opiod issue). You guys want government action to address opiod deaths - but then out of the same mouth say “we don’t want the actions the government has put in place that has limited the number of covid deaths!” That’s the luxury you have - to say at the end when lives have been saved “See?! I told you covid wasn’t a big deal! Checkmate!”

Again don’t worry - the 95% of society with the brainpower to make that final step in thinking will roll their eyes at you and still pay their taxes that paves your roads and will pay for your ICU hospital admission even if it’s due to your poor decision making ability around covid or seatbelts.

Up 38 Down 10

Forced to Comply on Jan 16, 2022 at 10:42 am

As Ben Franklin said "Those who give up liberty for safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Up 31 Down 19

AdmiralA$$ on Jan 16, 2022 at 9:15 am

Waste of time but lets just point out how everything Roy said is incorrect or completely misrepresented.

1. its only been proven all over, corona has a 99.95% survival I don't need to pretend to know how dangerous it is I can read.

2. Free areas like Texas Florida and others many others are doing just fine. In fact your favorite congress women AOC was just filmed in free Florida with no mask having a grand time. Oh and Elon musk just invested 10 billion into a new Texas plant after moving there from still restricted California.

3. The government has no right to be in our cars, homes and lives. I don't believe in seat belt mandates we have a constitution that limits government powers. We do not have a democracy, we have democratic elections with a constitutional Monarchy and our constitution Limits Government action and intrusion into our lives.

4. Also no I can not catch an opiod OD from someone else. However, extreme isolation, cold, dark and loneliness with lack of supports. You know, the situation most see right now. Only makes these things worse. This would be why here in my home we have lost nearly twice as many to opiods as corona last year alone.

When you care more about your government than your personal liberty, you truly deserve neither. Paraphrase - Benjamin Franklin.

Up 12 Down 28

Yukoner32 on Jan 15, 2022 at 6:59 pm

@Jane How did the NDP do anything to help the Liberals with Hidden Valley School? They questioned them just as much as the Yukon Party. The only thing they did not do was agree with the attempted power grab by Currie Dixon. And why would they vote to put the Yukon Party in power instead of the Liberals any way when the YP was just as guilty in all of this by the looks of things.

The sexual abuse started in 2014-15 but the Liberals only started in power around Dec. 2016 or Jan. 2017. So under the Yukon Party when the first 'incidents' happened, it was swept under the rug and the pedophile was allowed to stay working at the school. At least when the Liberals found out there was an issue they turfed the guy immediately so no further kids could be harmed. Their culpability comes from not communicating it to parents and trying to leave it all to the RCMP. #TheMoreYouKnow

Up 37 Down 4

The lunatic is in the voting booth… on Jan 15, 2022 at 6:38 pm

Dear Jane - It is the will of the people that she should maximize her pension and those of her cronies… That is why we vote these people in right? So they govern as we will them to…

This is our fault for legitimizing these self-serving, self-aggrandizing, power-mad, narcissists… But hey, we have willed it so! Stop voting for these losers because they have demonstrated that they care not for you!

Up 33 Down 12

Groucho d'North on Jan 15, 2022 at 5:50 pm

In today's English class for voters the word of the day is:

Totalitarianism
- noun
1) A system of government in which the people have virtually no authority and the state wields absolute control, for example, a dictatorship.
2) a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.).
3) the principle of complete and unrestricted power in government.

This will be on the next electoral quiz, so pay attention.

Up 56 Down 14

jane on Jan 15, 2022 at 12:38 pm

Hi Kate, you might want to venture out of your bubble, many, and I assume most, people are very disappointed in the way you handled Hidden Valley school and the way you help the liberals. It appears you're worried about a pension or something. It probably cost you the next election.

Up 18 Down 34

JC on Jan 15, 2022 at 11:55 am

Faux outrage

Yeah, wow, it's almost like everything the Yukon party does is a cynical ploy or a smear job because they can't govern for sh*t. But they make up for their shortcomings by being the most dogged at political pissing contests.

Up 12 Down 9

JC on Jan 15, 2022 at 11:53 am

D. Stephen Robertson

There was a lot of outrage, and continues to be a lot of outrage, over the HVS debacle.
Pay attention, and you might end up not spouting nonsense.

Up 29 Down 27

Roy on Jan 15, 2022 at 11:22 am

The problem with having lockdowns or travel restrictions or distance learning or vaccine mandates, etc., is that when they are enacted during pandemic waves and the result is no major death toll and no overloading of the hospitals then the internet experts (who feel, as 5% of society, that only they can see “the truth”) come out and say without irony:

“See?! Only a few deaths. I told you covid wasn't a big deal!”
Yet you can’t figure out how many deaths there would have been without government action.

And you can’t bring yourself to understand that the YP would of had to also enact these same measures (see Alberta and Saskatchewan) or face a much higher death and disease toll. Get your brain to travel outside the tiny Yukon bubble - provinces and states with right wing leaders are not enjoying life without restrictions.

Also you guys should take your seat belts off and disengage your airbags - since safety measures that worked must not be needed since deaths and injuries went down with their introduction. Genius level thinking there.

And the opiod crisis (which is real) doesn’t require a lockdown because…wait for it….you’re not gonna catch an overdose from someone else. But you already knew that and are choosing to ignore that crucial point.

Up 51 Down 11

Wilf Carter on Jan 15, 2022 at 10:51 am

We are in weak political management. Tracy McPhee messed up Education when she was minister and now is messing up health care.

Up 69 Down 13

Joe on Jan 15, 2022 at 7:59 am

@kate white.. no one listens to you anymore. It's over since you supported the hidden valley liberals.

Up 65 Down 11

Matthew on Jan 15, 2022 at 5:53 am

If you continue to have any faith at all in this current government you are also part of the problem! Get your head out of the sand!

Up 54 Down 5

Sunny on Jan 14, 2022 at 9:02 pm

The problem with lying a lot is getting tangled in one's own web eventually.

Up 51 Down 11

Josie on Jan 14, 2022 at 8:38 pm

This is great news. Ready to see people live their life again without the fear of cold and flu viruses. Time to Snap out of the Mass Formation Psychosis we have been put under.

Up 57 Down 11

Mike on Jan 14, 2022 at 8:12 pm

Pretty soon the covid jig will be done and the government will have to defend their policies, mandates, vaccine requirements and the constant threat of severe sickness and death.
Covid has killed a lot of people worldwide but the Yukon is at 16 so we lost 3 times as many to overdose than we did covid but nobody shut down the Territory for fentanyl or heroin, but a flu virus promoted by the liberals worldwide has tried to instill fear into people thinking they know what's best for us. They think because they convinced and threatened job loss to get people to vaccinate had nothing to do with what works and what doesn't. Silver being the liberal puppet he is, took his advice from his fearless leader Justin Trudeau whose agenda is clear. Your kids are no safer vaccinated and wearing masks and the government knows it. The truth will come out - it always does.

Up 37 Down 7

Faux Outrage on Jan 14, 2022 at 8:10 pm

I get why the NDP are upset since they are scared of everything and are professionals at playing the victim, but why is the Yukon Party concerned about this? They came out against the travel restrictions, vaxx mandates, vaxx passports, and all sorts of health orders. They even presented a petition on behalf of protestors to the legislature. So I can't help but wonder if the current 'concern' is rather fake. Someone should tell them that they would look less petty if they didn't disagree with 100% of the decisions the government makes.

Up 52 Down 5

TMYK on Jan 14, 2022 at 6:30 pm

I’m not even sure why Kate White pretends to care at this point. She’s not going to do anything about it.

Up 51 Down 11

Crunch on Jan 14, 2022 at 5:36 pm

It's falling apart. Anyone who hasn't noticed what's been going on in the last while is not paying attention. Quebec threats, Australia trying to make an example of star athlete and now the good ole Yukon. When and the hell are people going to wake up?

Up 38 Down 4

NeilAlexGeddy on Jan 14, 2022 at 5:00 pm

Silver is taking a page from Cuomo's playbook but instead of falsifying numbers, he is suppressing testing so his record doesn't go down the toilet. He wants his numbers to look good so that one day they will cast him in bronze, and put him at the front entrance of Gerties. The little plaque underneath will read, "I slayed the great virus and I thought you should know. To save the great forest, I did what I could. At 50 below I wouldn't let them have wood. From schooner to crooner, and from teacher to preacher, I saved the planet and made heating bills a real screecher." Yep ..... best premier the Yukon has ever seen.

Up 47 Down 13

Rick S on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:55 pm

Wow, this government successfully scared parents absolutely senseless! There never should have been mass testing, masking, distancing, hand sanitizing, etc. in school, and children never should have been out of school for a single day. That's been backed up by the science and experiences elsewhere in the world from day one.

I'd be outta here ASAP if I were Elliot. Parents will start questioning everything now, like what the hell it was they put inside their children's bodies based on blind trust.

Up 55 Down 7

D. Stephen Robertson on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:52 pm

So this “shocks” parents, teachers and the NDP but a child molester working with handicapped children in the schools does not? Time for a “shocking” new slate.

Up 42 Down 5

Beaker on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:26 pm

It’s really too bad that the state has so many people living in fear. Of all the covid variants this would be the one where you would and should not vaccinate your children or healthy adults, although it would be understandable if you plan on travelling..but from a medical perspective it’s not needed plus the booster is not designed for omicron.

Up 67 Down 4

Doug Tutty on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:15 pm

Not sure why they're raising the red herring about rapid tests, since currently anyone with symptoms are supposed to isolate. CMOH says that a negative rapid test result means that the person may still have COVID. Therefore, rapid tests can't help keep schools safe.

Up 51 Down 63

J2 on Jan 14, 2022 at 3:54 pm

When there's too much work and not enough person hours, changes have to be made, often quickly during a crisis. No time to consult with everyone. Quit whining about every decision being made.

Up 97 Down 62

GusM on Jan 14, 2022 at 3:29 pm

Good news, it's about time the pointless fearmongering stopped. When did we ever announce the numbers of people coming down with seasonal flu and colds every day in the news?
Omicron is a cold. That's what the data tells us. Only lunatic psychopaths would want to shutdown society or put any measures in place at all to fight a cold. It's what the data shows.
The data also shows those vaxes are a waste of time costing taxpayers billions... including pushing them for this common cold, AND doing so with little children who's immune system doesn't require help nor are they 'spreaders'.

Up 109 Down 50

bonanzajoe on Jan 14, 2022 at 3:21 pm

We're all going to get it eventually. So, let's just get it and get on with our lives. Goodness, there must be some other interesting news out there.

Up 88 Down 59

Salt on Jan 14, 2022 at 3:19 pm

They gov is going to find it is hard to change direction after acting like maximalist, hectoring a-holes for 2 years. They are attempting to avoid admitting they were wrong and that the policies they forced on the public have failed. Once the majority of the ‘vaccinated’ realize that the mRNA injections are not safe there may be hell to pay.

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