Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

PROVIDING THE LATEST FACTS – Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer, updates members of the media on the territory’s COVID-19 response this morning. Looking on is Pauline Frost, the minister of Health and Social Services.

‘We are in a time of intense preparation’

Whitehorse General Hospital will be suspending all non-urgent surgery procedures scheduled from the coming Monday onward, as one of several updates to the territory’s COVID-19 response.

By Gabrielle Plonka on March 20, 2020

Whitehorse General Hospital will be suspending all non-urgent surgery procedures scheduled from the coming Monday onward, as one of several updates to the territory’s COVID-19 response.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer, announced the changes this morning during a media briefing in the foyer of the Yukon Government Main Administration Building

As of this morning, there were still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Yukon, though some Yukoners are awaiting test results from Vancouver.

“We’re still in a good position, preparations are ongoing and at the same time we’re living in an unprecedented time,” Hanley said.

“We are in a time of intense preparation.”

Hanley explained that Whitehorse General Hospital will continue to allow emergency procedures. These will include time-sensitive operations and minor cancer procedures.

Yukoners currently holding non-urgent appointments will be contacted individually by the hospital to provide information and reschedule for a later time.

“It’s really trying to limit the flow of people into the hospital in line with other social distancing measures,” Hanley said.

This measure will allow hospitals to prepare for a potential surge in patients due to COVID-19, Hanley explained. Bed management and ventilator training for nurses and general practitioners are essential at this time.

Hanley also provided updates to COVID-19 testing processes and childcare operations in the Yukon.

Earlier this week, a backlog in COVID-19 tests stretched the wait for results to upwards of six days.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control, which manages all of the Yukon’s tests, resolved the backlog earlier this week. The Yukon is now receiving test results in two to five days, Hanley said.

Recent changes in B.C.’s automation process mean that some tests conducted earlier this week have returned results, while others from late last week are still awaiting results.

Hanley explained that the territory is essentially waiting on two bundles of results. Everyone awaiting a test result will be contacted and counselled accordingly.

“We are all interested in rapid turnaround times…. I’m very happy with the speeding-up of testing,” Hanley said.

The number of tests completed will now be posted to the coronavirus section of yukon.ca and updated weekly. As of Wednesday, yukon.ca had confirmed 101 negative tests, with no positive cases.

Hanley said the territory is encouraging testing according to the criteria of COVID-19 symptoms with travel history. Symptoms include a fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

The Yukon government has now launched an online self-assessment tool for COVID-19 on yukon.ca. Yukoners are encouraged to check their symptoms using that tool before calling to request a test.

If the assessment tool recommends a test, Yukoners should call the nurse’s hotline at 8-1-1.

The hotline’s capacity will be broadened, with more lines, in response to the substantial number of callers. Earlier this week, the Star reported that Yukoners were on hold with 8-1-1 for several hours, or were experiencing dropped calls.

Callers to the 8-1-1 line will now be diverted to either the Public Health Agency of Canada or to Yukon Communicable Disease Control.

Hanley said this change will help callers access Yukon-specific information. If a Yukon caller is suffering a severe respiratory illness or requires a COVID-19 test, he or she may be directed to the new respiratory assessment centre set to open next week.

The Yukon’s daycare centres will not be closing. This is because daycares are “very different settings from schools,” and the government has been actively working with daycare operators, Hanley explained.

The territory is conducting a measured approach to childcare services. Reducing the number of children in centres has already happened, simultaneously reducing the risk of those centres.

Hanley said his office recognizes that Yukoners working in essential jobs are not able to keep their children at home, and the continuation of daycare services will enable essential services to continue.

“We are not in lockdown,” Hanley said.

“Society needs to function as well as possible under these new measures and constraints; this is a time of adaptation and preparation, but not of shutting down.”

Comments (33)

Up 0 Down 0

Strange on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:18 pm

According to CBC on line Dr Hanley identified two places of COVID-19 exposure. Bethany Church and St Elias Dental. There's only three identified positive cases. The one man is connected to the St Elias Dental. That means it's the couple that is identified with Bethany Church. How does this fit with their self isolation on their return from USA?

Up 1 Down 0

scratches head on Mar 26, 2020 at 7:28 pm

Good thing we didn't have an international large group event like New Years before this Covid came out.

Up 10 Down 5

Anton on Mar 25, 2020 at 6:01 pm

@Matthew, l think if you see the videos from Spain with the affected patients in the hospital lying on the floor along the hospital hallways for lack of beds you may become a convert.

Up 5 Down 12

timesall on Mar 25, 2020 at 12:49 pm

pre = before
this is post
about 6 months late.
Go google herd immunity. *drops mic*

Up 24 Down 1

Humble Measure on Mar 25, 2020 at 8:46 am

Two questions:
1) Is one of our confirmed cases a local politician who has been conspicuously absent and unavailable to the media recently?
2) Was he at that damned parade?
Just wondering.

Up 10 Down 14

U. C. Little on Mar 25, 2020 at 7:32 am

Well said Timesall! We need less Chicken Little... However, we are unfortunately not mature enough as a collective to appreciate the consequences of mass, repetitive messaging 24/7... The collective has become a mass of impulse easily provoked to the cliffs. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a shift away from the negative affect of technology and the age of disinformation?

Up 29 Down 3

Yukon Cornelius on Mar 24, 2020 at 11:30 pm

timesall "gross over-reaction"? "chicken little scenario"? "The flu is extra deadly this year, please take the following precautions"? "fear mongering"? For the record, as of today (March 24, 2020), COVID-19 is 148 times more deadly than the flu. On average, for every 1,000 people hospitalized with flu, 1 person dies from it. For COVID-19 that number is 148 for every 1,000 hospitalized with COVID-19.

It's ignorance like yours that creates the perfect conditions which allow pandemics to happen. If you don't believe the statistics, go to:
and pay attention to the ratio of 'Deaths' to 'Closed Cases' (cases which had an outcome). As of today that ratio is 14.76 per cent, meaning that on average, globally, 14.76 per cent of persons hospitalized with COVID-19 are dying (or 148 dead for every 1,000 hospitalized with COVID-19). The really sobering news is that in Canada, as of today that ratio is 19 per cent or 190 persons dying for every 1,000 hospitalized.

Now, go ahead and call it the 'flu' again. Go ahead and call it an 'over-reaction'.

Up 4 Down 4

Alan on Mar 24, 2020 at 5:35 pm

Anie: Ha Ha! I'm not talking about people coming here with the virus looking for a hospital bed. I'm talking people looking for refuge from the virus in our campgrounds where the fishing is good, and the land is wild, posted at a time when Yukon was virus free. Every year people come for the RV camp grounds and camp sites, but this year food, services and medical supplies are going to be compromised. We don't need a sudden population increase in our small communities. This post was made before measures were put in place, but no one has so far suggested closing the campgrounds. How dumb can you get?

Up 12 Down 5

scratches head on Mar 24, 2020 at 5:09 pm

You're preparing for something that is already here?
"Look the house is on fire"
"We're in intense preparation to put it out."

Up 9 Down 9

Invicticus on Mar 24, 2020 at 5:02 pm

6 months late. This is all reaction. The virus was "out" in October. High points of travel were Thanksgiving and Christmas. We even went through Halloween. It's a guarantee that everyone has already been in contact with it. The difference is testing for it. Anyone who had flu symptoms this year may have contracted Corona virus.

Up 14 Down 48

timesall on Mar 24, 2020 at 3:25 pm

You better hope people are dying soon; else this will seem like a gross over reaction that has caused severe stress and mental health issues. You're crippling the economy for a chicken little scenario. This could have been as simple as,
"The flu is extra deadly this year, please take the following precautions."
versus "Covid 19 - etc etc and all the details"

Doctors won't listen to patients when they suggest they have an idea of what their issue is (because they googled it), but now you're providing this information to a group of people that you think isn't capable of understanding the complexity of medicine and health.
Long story short. I respect the precautions. Hating your fear mongering.

Up 18 Down 3

Anie on Mar 24, 2020 at 3:07 pm

Alan is worried that people from BC and Alberta will flock to the Yukon for safety from the virus. Think about it Alan, how many beds are available at Whitehorse General ? slightly over 50, many of the always in use. How many respirators? 4 maybe? How many full time Doctors? When did the Yukon finally decide to close unnecessary business such as hair salons? Not until tomorrow! Did they really need notice? Don't worry Alan, given the strong presumptive actions of other Governments, and the excellent and accessible health care available everywhere else, the Yukon is quite safe from an invasion except by the very dumb and uninformed

Up 23 Down 9

NeilAlexGeddy on Mar 24, 2020 at 2:25 pm

Compared to other jurisdictions the Yukon governments response has been haphazard. Go have a look at the environment at the mining and construction camps. These are not exactly great environments to practice social distancing and the modes used to travel to these sites are not great for distancing either. Minto mine, the Faro cleanup camps, and the Eagle mine ... 300 southern workers from cities where Covid is spreading at the community level all interacting with 300 local workers, some from very remote communities.
You mark my word that cases will eventually pop up in these environments. I will put the blame on Sandy Silver and my Liberal MLA if this has any impact on my wife and daughter who have respiratory issues. Start acting like a leader Mr. Silver.

Up 4 Down 13

BnR on Mar 24, 2020 at 9:17 am

Yukon Cornelius, you get the MVP for Monday morning quarterback.

Up 17 Down 22

Wilf Carter on Mar 23, 2020 at 9:18 pm

Why don't people put their name on the pieces they write. Not putting your name behind what you say means there is nothing in your thinking of what you are stating. So stand up for what believe in or close your trap.

Up 53 Down 20

Yukon Cornelius on Mar 23, 2020 at 3:02 pm

"We are in a time of intense preparation"?! Seriously?! YG had 3 months to 'prepare' during the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China. Instead, Sandy left the back door wide open by continuing to allow 54 flights/week (7,067 passengers/week) from Vancouver International Airport to land at Whitehorse International Airport.

It doesn't take an Epidemiologist to understand that if you allow people to land in Whitehorse after they've walked through the same airport terminal in (Vancouver) where, since January 25, 2020 (the Lunar New Year celebrations) people were either receiving family from China (a country that, during that time period, was experiencing a massive Coronavirus epidemic), or, conversely returning from China after visiting family during the Lunar New Year celebrations, that some 40 days later (the incubation period for COVID-19 disease) you're going to have people in the Yukon infected with nCov-2 (Coronavirus).

On March 13, 2020 when the Opposition Party demanded what actions Sandy was taking to address the Coronavirus global pandemic, Sandy called them: "Paranoid".
With 2 (confirmed) cases of nCoV-2 in the Yukon, are we still 'paranoid', Sandy?! Thanks to Sandy's abject ineptitude, Yukoners will now have to make some serious choices as nCoV-2 over-runs its already stretched hospitals.

Thanks, Sandy!

Up 28 Down 8

Alan on Mar 23, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Yukonmax; Yes, some, the visible ones on the street, outside the liquor store, outside the shelter, all the ones who are obviously unemployed and drifting around. Not the invisible ones, ones at home trying to make ends meet. I thought that was obvious. Apparently not. I am not condemning all people on social assistance. It is not only street people who are not practicing social distancing. Senior in a seniors residence, 'i was in Vancouver this is my 14th day (main street), I had to get out'. She broke the quarantine rule. Selfishness and stupidity is going to be our downfall.
Small shop, I'm approached by two people 12" apart. I put up my hand and said '2 meters'!"Ha a Ha, O' yeah, right dude.!" I'm 75 I've circled the sun 75 times I know what 2 meters mean. Excuse me if I don't get word perfect. People in the food markets, fruit and veggies, picking them up, looking and putting back. Two young people standing in front of shoppers door 12'' apart looking at the rules for self distancing. I'm standing 6' away. I want to go through the door. He looks at me like, what's your problem? Dumb, really dumb.
People coming back from outside via Air North as soon as they land they will head for the food markets. Close the campgrounds to all outside visitors. Don't allow RVs and Campers from outside on Walmart parking lots. Small communities with limited supplies and medical facilities don't need an invasion of campers. The Quarantine Act is a law with serious penalties for violators. The time is coming when social distancing on the street will be enforced by police patrols.

Up 22 Down 4

Miles Epanhauser on Mar 23, 2020 at 11:40 am

Street people should be advised to take precautions by staff of the Centre of Hope. If these people do not follow guidelines it could affect our city.

Up 7 Down 8

JC on Mar 23, 2020 at 11:36 am

Wes, for those in rural areas, hope you saved up your old Sears mags. Worked when I was young. Windshield washer should take the place of hand sanitizer for now.

Up 51 Down 17

Greiko on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:46 am

Saw the press release yesterday. Do we need Dr. Hanley doing a press conference in both French and English...good lord, he can’t speak French, people in the Yukon all speak English unless they are from Asia so let’s put the bs aside get the message out and forget trying to appease Ottawa.

Up 16 Down 9

YukonMax on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:19 am

@Alan you are probably saying "SOME" people on SA" aren't you?
Most of the others are trying to make it, and need help to get there.

Up 22 Down 3

Katie on Mar 23, 2020 at 12:56 am

At least they are on "intense preparations ", whatever that entails. We hope that the healthcare systems won't be too overwhelmed once our area gets hit by this monster virus.

Thank you health officials for all the updates and preparations. Hopefully we can all do what we can to contribute towards minimizing not only the risks but the spread and sustenance of the virus. This problem is beyond "the officials" and it is a threat to all of us. I am just curious to know how the workers in places such as the Emergency Shelter are shielded from exposure and possible infection since they return to their families daily from their long shifts.

Up 38 Down 6

Wes on Mar 22, 2020 at 8:21 pm

Came in from Mayo to do the semi bi-weekly big grocery shop. Staring bemusedly at the rows of empty staples shelves, I ran into some friends from Ross. They to were doing a regular big shop while in town. They also purchase for many of the elders.
So, looking at the empty shelves, presumably emptied by those who want to get theirs before anyone else, tell me again how we are going to look after each other and those with disabilities or mobility issues, or our elders, tell me with a straight face that we look after our neighbours.
Simple case of everyone looking out for themselves and to hell with everyone else.

Up 23 Down 3

S. Elliott on Mar 22, 2020 at 7:17 pm

....and how many working ventilators are available in the Whitehorse area ?

Up 30 Down 3

drum on Mar 22, 2020 at 1:58 pm

Unfortunately the people who hang around the Homeless Shelter are not paying any attention to Social Distancing. They are crowding!!!!!!

Up 42 Down 11

Alan on Mar 21, 2020 at 10:22 pm

I think we need a lockdown. The spring influx of nomads looking for work isn't going to happen because of business shutdown (we hope). But that doesn't mean people looking for a virus free location are not going to drive to Yukon in large numbers, BC and Alberta are the most likely to try that. I've already seen BC and Alberta license plates. We also need police patrols to deal with people congregating and drifting and ignoring social distance. And also we need a bylaw to deal with main street panhandlers, Street panhandlers are high risk virus transmitters.

Up 37 Down 4

Dave on Mar 21, 2020 at 6:27 pm

When the first cases start appearing things will become real very quickly. Fortunately Yukon is already taking some of the same steps southern provinces have in advance before the first case shows up. Closing the border to non essential travel such as the NWT has done would be a valid step to try to stop it before it gets here, a very smart thing to do at this time.

Up 41 Down 15

jc on Mar 21, 2020 at 9:02 am

Allowing daycares to remain open??? They have their heads in the sand. Yukoners...stop living in your bubble...you think you have some sort of special, magical powers to advert this? You don't, and you will be sorry you listened to your irresponsible gov't officials.

Up 15 Down 63

Matthew on Mar 21, 2020 at 6:49 am

LOL! Always a good read for a laugh. Society needs to function, from home, while 6ft apart.. so tens of thousands of deaths are caused from chemical based agriculture each year, but your gov and WHO think it's safe to eat.. lol but better listen to them now! LOL

Up 11 Down 70

Matthew on Mar 20, 2020 at 10:47 pm

Still...no confirmed cases but you better be scared.. it's coming! We swear! .. yeah, yeah so is the flu...and Christmas..

Up 45 Down 9

Alan on Mar 20, 2020 at 9:23 pm

Street people in groups, getting into seniors residence, kissing, hugging, they have no concept of self distancing or self isolation, they just don't get it. They are a danger to the whole community. I predict Kwanlin Dun will undergo forced quarantine. The hotels that house people on Social Assistance, the Family Hotel, the Chilcoot will either close down, or go into quarantine. They may have heard the news, but stupidity rules, and they don't give a damn, the street people, people on SA, have been on the path of self destruction so long, no matter what the social, historical, environmental causes are, they are basically irresponsible. This social catastrophe has been going on for a long time with no solution, now we are all going to pay the price.

Up 32 Down 6

SheepChaser on Mar 20, 2020 at 7:05 pm

Expert at the microphone. Politician off to the side. Well done! We might actually have a chance.

Up 37 Down 34

Jayne W on Mar 20, 2020 at 4:21 pm

When is the Government going to mandate non essential businesses (retail) close down. Better safe than sorry.

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