Whitehorse Daily Star

Worries expressed over easing of COVID rules

As Yukon medical officials continue to report new COVID-19 cases daily, some First Nations are expressing serious anxieties about the pending relaxations in rules.

By Tim Giilck on July 26, 2021

As Yukon medical officials continue to report new COVID-19 cases daily, some First Nations are expressing serious anxieties about the pending relaxations in rules.

Officials reported nine new confirmed cases on Friday. With recoveries, that brought the active case count to 77. 

The locations are split between Whitehorse and communities, with one of the hardest-hit being Watson Lake. There are 11 confirmed cases there, according to reports from the Watson Lake Wellness Healthcare News Facebook page.

“There is NO need to panic, but… we have been seeing an alarming increase in positive COVID cases in our community over the past week,” a post on the page stated.

“Currently we have 11 active COVID cases – five were diagnosed today. I do not want people to panic. But there is a need for us all to be a bit more vigilant in the coming weeks. Remember the ‘Safe 6 plus 1’ I know we’re all tired and fed up with COVID.

“But we need to do this now more than ever to protect our community members who are at risk and to protect our children and those who can’t get the vaccine.”

Meanwhile, the fallout continues amongst First Nations communities over the government’s plan to greatly loosen restrictions on Aug. 4.

The changes affect mask-wearing, isolation requirements and bar and restaurant capacities.

Doris Bill, the chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, expressed strong reservations about the plans to CBC North late last week. She has not responded to the Star’s request for an interview about her concerns.

Chief Steve Smith of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation told the Star this morning he is ambivalent about the situation.

In the big picture sense, Smith said the move might “be a good thing,” but he didn’t like the timing nor the top-down manner in which it was delivered.

He said his government wasn’t consulted. Rather, the Liberal government told him and his council what it had planned shortly before the public announcement last Wednesday – without any consultation.

“That concerns me because First Nations cases have spiked,” Smith said. “That’s a serious concern.

“It’s not a true consultation or discussion. It’s more of the old way of doing things. We talk of reconciliation and respect, and there’s none of it here.”

Smith also questioned the two weeks’ notice, saying that was a bad idea because “people will want to move to the (less-restricted) stage immediately, particularly not wearing their masks.”

Even with many First Nations opposing the move, Smith said, he doubts the Yukon government will budge on the issue.

“Not if past history is an example, they won’t,” he said.

The Carcross-Tagish First Nation (CTFN) provided the Star with the following statement:

“The COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions are a delicate and difficult balance for governments to strike. People are scared, and rightfully so.

“We always support a consensus view of Yukon First Nations. If they feel they want to pause the opening, we support them,” the CTFN said.

“At the same time, we believe in the Yukon Government’s guidance and the guidance across the country that says we can move towards opening safely now. There are obvious risks from COVID-19, but there are many costs to staying closed down too.

“All evidence points to COVID-19 staying with us for the long term,” the CTFN added. “We have to learn to live with it.

“The best thing we can do to continue our normal lives is to get vaccinated. The vaccine doesn’t mean you won’t get sick, but your chances of serious illness are greatly reduced.

“We know the current Yukon outbreak has disproportionally affected First Nations people. We encourage our citizens and everyone to get the vaccine. We will be keeping a close eye on continued developments of the pandemic as we move forward.”

The Ross River Dena Council (RRDC) posted the following latest and lengthy advisory on its Facebook page over the weekend.

“The Ross River Dena Council advises all community members that as of 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 24, there is one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ross River. The individual has been self-isolating since last Sunday along with a second individual who is required to self-isolate under the current COVID-19 guidelines, as enforced under the Civil Emergency Measures Act,” the RRDC added.

It’s closely monitoring the Watson Lake/Lower Post outbreak.

“This particular outbreak is concerning due to the volume of non-essential travel observed between Watson Lake/Lower Post, Ross River and other neighbouring communities in recent weeks,” the RRDC said.

“Council advises that while essential travel (i.e. for medical reasons) is reasonable during the current outbreak, non-essential travel poses an extreme risk to the well-being of our elders, our families and our entire community.”

The council provided a troubling example of how easy potential transmission can be.

“The latest example of how dangerous non-essential community-to-community travel can be was discovered on Friday.

“A resident of Watson Lake drove through Whitehorse to Ross River on Thursday to drop off a family member at Ross River Airport. The family member joined workers from multiple communities on a charter flight to a nearby mine.

“The driver opted to stay in Ross River Thursday night and met with multiple community members before returning to Whitehorse on Friday,” the RRDC said.

“Once in Whitehorse, the individual went for a COVID-19 test at the rapid testing facility. The test result was positive.

“Out of respect for those who may have been exposed, the individual posted the test result on Facebook late Friday evening and apologized, expressing sincere concern for the community members involved.” the RRDC said.

“Without question, it is a truly unfortunate situation that could lead to more cases in the coming days, and it reminds us of just how quickly an innocent visit can change a community’s COVID-19 outlook.

“At this time, Council is asking all community members to please remain calm, please avoid non-essential travel, continue to practice the Safe 6+1 and work together to support everyone involved.”

The council’s travel advisory remains in effect

“With a growing outbreak in a neighbouring community and an unprecedented outbreak still under way across Yukon, Council is once again asking Yukoners and travellers from outside of the territory to please respect the travel advisory for Ross River, which reads as follows:

NO VISITORS PLEASE – Travellers are asked to refrain from visiting Ross River at this time;

ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY – Community members are asked to refrain from travelling to other communities unless it is absolutely essential (i.e. for medical reasons).”

In the statement, the council took some issue with easing the health restrictions.

“It means that our elders, our families and the vulnerable members of our community must now prepare for even greater risk.

“Council does not support Wednesday’s announcement, and is disappointed that the community with the lowest vaccination rate in Yukon – and therefore the highest risk – has still not been respectfully and meaningfully consulted about such an important decision,” the RRDC said.

It plans to engage with Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical health officer, the Department of Health and Social Services and others “to explore all available options and solutions, such as re-enforcing the current travel advisory with new COVID-19 safety measures that work to strengthen community-level support for unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated members of our community and new partnerships with our neighbours that will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable populations across rural Yukon in the weeks and months ahead.”

The Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation is also reporting one case of COVID-19 in the community.

It’s asking people to “immediately stop partying around with no regard for social isolation and safety guidelines. If you have been in any of the parties between July 14 and 21, we strongly encourage you to immediately self-isolate and seek medical help of you have any COVID-19 symptoms.”

This morning, the territorial government provided the Star with a statement saying it continues to follow Hanley’s recommendations.

“As a result of high vaccine uptake and decreasing case counts in the territory, and based on new recommendations from the chief medical officer of health, we are planning to lift some restrictions on August 4th.

“We will continue to work closely with the office of the chief medical officer of health and our First Nations and municipal partners to protect the health and safety of Yukoners as we look to emerge from the pandemic and get on the path to recovery.”

Comments (45)

Up 3 Down 12

Charlie's Aunt on Jul 31, 2021 at 7:55 pm

Some are unable to receive vaccine for health reasons, but those who plainly refuse it also seem to be the anti-maskers. Those of us who have received vaccine are fully aware that it does not give full protection against Covid but lessens the severity. We also know that, if we are unknowingly mildly infected & asymptomatic, we can still pass it on to others so wearing a mask is for protection of others, not ourselves. That is something the anti-maskers don't appreciate, any more than they realize that no type of herd immunity would have been achieved without 80% of Yukoners receiving the vaccine.
All of you nay-sayers are happily riding on the backs of the more responsible. Maybe read the reports on CBC North web from 2, not old nor compromised, Yukon people who have been desperately ill from Covid and now wishing they had accepted the vaccine. For those who think a previous Covid-19 infection gives immunity, think again.

Up 8 Down 9

Oh Nicky B on Jul 30, 2021 at 4:59 pm

You've been chirping this for over a year now, and it's still a dumb thing to say. Somehow you seem more bothered by those getting vaccinated and wearing masks than they care about you. Yes, by all means get on with your life, and I hope it's a long and healthy one.

Up 4 Down 4

Curious One on Jul 30, 2021 at 3:49 pm

Do 'social conservatives' believe in getting vaccinated?

Up 20 Down 8

NickyB on Jul 30, 2021 at 3:11 pm

If you believe Mask&Vax protects you, then why do you care what anyone else does, eh? Wear your mask whenever and wherever you want and the rest of us will get on with our lives. OK?

Up 5 Down 14

Scotch on Jul 30, 2021 at 2:04 pm

Have you seen a map of settlement land in the Yukon? You are on FN land right now.

Up 35 Down 4

Oya on Jul 29, 2021 at 3:39 pm

@ TheHammer - I don't think Peter is upset because of rights regarding face masks.
I believe he is upset at some FNs trying to impose their rules on non-FN land. Chiefs of FN land are NOT elected Yukon Government officials. Elected FNs can govern their own lands, but they have no right to govern or impose their rules on land that is not theirs (or citizens that are not of their FN).
At least that's how I read his comment (which I agree with 100%).

Up 28 Down 4

DMZ on Jul 28, 2021 at 11:26 pm

They say we have to learn to live with it, then as soon as there's a handful of cases, they want restrictions like it's the fourth wave. Or they want to "lift" restrictions, but impose so many cautions, there won't be any perceptible difference.

I don't know what the numbers mean. I agree, they should stop with the numbers, until they can present them in a coherent context. That's what "living with it" requires.

Up 10 Down 0

Oh, Salt on Jul 28, 2021 at 7:35 pm

My comment was directed at someone else, said that as long as a person is vaccinated, there's no need to care about what others do. "selfishness masquerading as virtue"? Too funny! and the best part is that you likely have no idea why your response is funny. But thanks for the chuckle lol

Up 12 Down 3

Douglas Martens on Jul 28, 2021 at 5:28 pm

If only there were some way for the pharmaceuticals to profit from all of this eh?

Up 5 Down 23

TheHammer on Jul 28, 2021 at 5:25 pm

Peter@ Your rights have been more important than FN rights for 500 years, and now you are getting hysterical about your rights over face masks! Your comment should hit world wide social news outlets to let people know about your fight for justice and freedom.

Up 21 Down 27

What 'down south' area are you looking at? on Jul 28, 2021 at 10:20 am

@So over it ....Cases rising in Alberta, with concerns about another wave. A rise in cases in BC, mostly among restaurant/hospitality workers. Cases up 63% in US in the past week - mainly Florida, Louisiana etc etc. I hear you, I'm sick of this too - but to think or say that cases aren't increasing simply isn't true.

Up 15 Down 30

Brent on Jul 28, 2021 at 1:17 am

fyi: The U.S. is now re-masking due to being out-flanked by the Delta variant. This may not fit with a couple of comfortable narratives on here but it's reality.
If I get Steve's drift he thinks it's the Liberals fault that people didn't mask or get the vaccine administered. Convenient that.

Up 36 Down 5

Oya on Jul 27, 2021 at 10:37 pm

Stop publishing number counts. Track them if needed for medical reasons, but let’s start treating it like measles or chicken pox, etc. We have to learn to live with it, so get vaccinated or stay home if you’re scared. Take special precautions if you have underlying conditions.
@ Peter I agree completely with your comment.

Up 34 Down 11

Salt on Jul 27, 2021 at 9:02 pm

That’s selfishness masquerading as virtue. Your fears regarding your grandkids are factually unfounded. They face much greater risk from a great variety of other things. And no we should not be changing the basic structure of society to accommodate those on chemo. People used to understand the world doesn’t revolve around them.

Up 10 Down 5

Matthew on Jul 27, 2021 at 7:50 pm

Hey @MikeC , money talks, let's just leave it at that...

Up 52 Down 8

Groucho d'North on Jul 27, 2021 at 10:22 am

It appears that the problem has already been identified as well as the solution as noted above:
"...It’s asking people to “immediately stop partying around with no regard for social isolation and safety guidelines. If you have been in any of the parties between July 14 and 21, we strongly encourage you to immediately self-isolate and seek medical help of you have any COVID-19 symptoms...”

Try to control your own performance before dictating to others to control theirs.

Up 50 Down 19

So over it. on Jul 27, 2021 at 9:09 am

We need to get on with our lives and start taking personal accountability for if we get sick. Why punish everyone if it's only a small majority who are afraid? Look at down south. July 1, bam, COVID ban over, and you don't see cases skyrocketing again even with the variants.

No one said you couldn't still take precautions and be responsible for yourself.

Up 40 Down 40

Capiche? on Jul 27, 2021 at 8:36 am

@North of 60 - I'm not worried about myself. I'm worried about my grandkids who are too young to get vaccinated, and for my friends currently taking chemo whose immune systems are whacked. That's why I care about what other people do. In spite of all precautions, we've seen how easily and quickly this virus can spread

Up 48 Down 24

Enough on Jul 27, 2021 at 3:23 am

"How come the only people still worried about covid are the people that are vaccinated from it?"

Up 50 Down 23

DL on Jul 27, 2021 at 2:53 am

Stop creating false panics. Notice how these ‘new’ cases have to get tested to find out they got covid? They’re self-isolating and ‘recovering’ at home, if they have any symptoms at all. That should make you stop and think! Many of us by now know that the PCR tests are churning out many false positives. Most, if not all, of those who died while testing positive with covid actually died of pre-existing conditions, not of covid.
We also know that children with a covid infection only get mild symptoms. And all of those who wanted the vaccine have by now taken it, and are supposed to feel ‘protected’. That should be the end of all restrictions and ‘case’ counts, once and for all.
For those who are that scared, you’re welcome to stay locked up in your home and wear masks 24/7, but do not impose your irrational fears on the rest of us.

Up 42 Down 20

Josey Wales on Jul 27, 2021 at 2:38 am

Gee...good thing we are so so polarized now and so so divided into our lil groups, enclaves checking all the PC SJW boxes.

Whatever cultural clic you identify with, whatever political blowhole you “wish” to support, whatever flavour of Kool-Aid one wishes to chug...if you are scared of either the COVID or the well engineered state fear campaign?
Then you can stay shuttered in your home, then you can bathe in sanitizer, wear a WHO approved hazmat suit and demand everyone’s medical history to enter your world, your bubble, IN your home.
...life goes on.

Up 39 Down 26

Wake up sheeple on Jul 26, 2021 at 10:59 pm

On June 9, 2021 Rocco Gallati won the supreme court challenge making forced masking, vaccines, lockdowns & closed borders illegal. The provincial/territorial govts are now trying to act like it is their idea to give everyone their freedom of choice back. Any tickets made since June 9 are illegal & will be thrown out of court. The First nations can choose to continue this agenda on their land but they can't tell us what to do. https://www.bitchute.com/video/wow0EiTaGmDC/?fbclid=IwAR2QRa46Feu0yEAXgDqcTX9cx_nWHxy0qVtGEnQyo6quRE04ZQK3ZrY3m_4

Up 39 Down 18

DMZ on Jul 26, 2021 at 8:35 pm

Personally, I'm very happy that Yukon politicians are finally talking in their real voices and allowing themselves to step forward. Probably in the nick of time, as the Covid talk is starting to turn into white noise. Real life is going on somewhere.

Up 41 Down 26

Juniper Jackson on Jul 26, 2021 at 8:11 pm

I've had a problem from the beginning with the fear tactics and force being used to control the populace. There have been many, many pandemics. The last one was 2009, H1N1.. but many virus's have been declared epidemics or pandemics.

Why was this one, with a 99.8% recovery, treated like the doom and death of all mankind? The news releases were so embedded with fear and doom, that once Trudeau got off his *ss, the media managed to shut down the country in 2 days!!!

The Government releases should have said.. There is a virus..etc. just details. Everyone is reminded to look after their health with a nutritious diet, Vitamin D, exercise, fresh air. We're asking all citizens to stay home for 2 weeks while we obtain more details and can provide accurate information. Some people are genuinely afraid, for themselves.. and lately the government has been going after our kids, I guess our elders and seniors are ok now, but our kids are at risk. I respect that. But, I don't respect those people trying to make me responsible for their fear by insisting on legislation to force me to see things their way.

Up 39 Down 13

Sheepchaser on Jul 26, 2021 at 8:02 pm

Yeah... Fully vaccinated citizens are no longer a danger to each other and pose very little danger even to the unvaccinated. Therefore there is no legal way to infringe on their Charter rights any further. Case closed.

If some communities need educational support to boost uptake, that’s their very narrow internal issue. Overreacting on a territory-wide level won’t help and will burn what little remains of the credibility of important decision makers.

Up 48 Down 11

Salt on Jul 26, 2021 at 7:57 pm

Why would freedom ever be up for "consultation"? Either there is a State Of Emergency or not and there has clearly not been one for a long time. They can't even get their own people to obey the covid cult, yet they presume to lecture others.

Up 50 Down 7

Tell the truth on Jul 26, 2021 at 7:47 pm

If Doris Bill was so concerned about our community she would have advertised there was an outbreak in Kwanlin Dun in June.

Up 54 Down 6

Jake on Jul 26, 2021 at 7:22 pm

There is no reason to postpone lifting restrictions when community’s like Ross River had ample opportunity to get the vaccine.

Up 52 Down 7

Jim on Jul 26, 2021 at 7:17 pm

So now we have finally reached a point where the government is going to lift the emergency measures act. We are in the neighborhood of 75 to 80% totally vaccinated. Now is the time when we have to look after ourselves. Your choice to wear a mask, social distance, avoid crowds, etc. We are going to be living with covid going forward. The big question of the day, when are government departments and employees going back to work? Last I heard, their are still 50% working from home. Still long lineups at the DMV, liquor store. Corporate Affairs still hiding behind a locked door. That’s right, as Silver says, we’re all in this together.

Up 27 Down 6

lack of consultation on Jul 26, 2021 at 7:05 pm

Where have I heard this before?

Up 34 Down 13

Mike on Jul 26, 2021 at 6:32 pm

Let's get the facts straight so the comments can stop. Half of the people in Watson Lake being diagnosed with covid19 have their full vaccinations. Assuming that everyone getting it is non vaccinated is a naive belief. CDC is down playing this and not being honest or transparent about how many people are infected and how many people were vaccinated. WHY Everyone, including myself, is sick of this crap and need not want but need to get back to some form of normalcy.

Up 54 Down 9

The Middle Road on Jul 26, 2021 at 5:34 pm

Some First Nations haven't shown much if any leadership on vaccinations in their communities. These leaders need to show some leadership and stop whining about their rights of consultation.

Up 45 Down 8

bonanzajoe on Jul 26, 2021 at 5:13 pm

Simple, if they don't like the easing of the rules, then just continue the old. Do they have the right to make decisions for all of us? So, here it is, apply the rules, and stay in your own space.

Up 44 Down 16

Max Mack on Jul 26, 2021 at 5:11 pm

The masking and other mandates might be coming off (mostly), but watch what happens if Trudeau wins the much-anticipated soon-to-be election call.

I place money that the current changes in covid policy have more to do with re-electing Trudeau than any concerns about population health.

Up 21 Down 36

MikeC on Jul 26, 2021 at 5:06 pm

@ Matthew (aka YouTube scientist)
Live in your non vaccinated bubble..2 words for you - Vaccine Passport to do anything..that’s means travel, restaurants, theatre, sporting events etc.) it’s happening in European countries already and will be required in Canada shortly.

So how are you going to cope? What’s your response to this..oh yeah crickets..that’s what I thought.

Up 128 Down 9

JustSayin' on Jul 26, 2021 at 4:37 pm

You don't have to stop wearing your mask. It will no longer be mandatory. If you are concerned for your well being follow the safe 6 and wear your mask. I rather it be an option than mandated.

Up 127 Down 39

Peter on Jul 26, 2021 at 4:34 pm

If First Nation want their citizens to keep on wearing a mask, so be it. They have every right on their land. But do not tell us non first nation people what to do on non first nation land. We have rights as Canadians.

Up 96 Down 18

confused on Jul 26, 2021 at 4:33 pm

I saw the video from chief Doris Bill asking her Band to refrain from partying, due to virus spread in the community; if those are not a relaxed people already, I don't know what it is. Also, it was reported that the majority of FN's don't want the vaccine. Can't force them, the government has to make a decision.

Up 82 Down 33

North_of_60 on Jul 26, 2021 at 4:27 pm

If you believe C0vid 'vaccines' are effective and nobody prevents you from wearing a mask as much as you want to, then why should you care what anyone else does? Try to control your own life; don't meddle in the lives of others. Capiche?

Up 111 Down 29

Mr Facts on Jul 26, 2021 at 4:03 pm

Scared of COVID? Stay home. It's pretty simple. Let the rest of us get on with our lifes.

Up 57 Down 13

Mike on Jul 26, 2021 at 3:23 pm

This article is inaccurate by choice or by misinformation to say there are only 11 cases in Watson Lake is false. I personally know of 22 people with active covid diagnoses in Watson Lake just in the last 4 days. So my question would be why the number being printed or why is the Star not being told the truth. Either way to say there's less than half of the actual number in a single community is very misleading.

Up 60 Down 20

Bud McGee on Jul 26, 2021 at 3:08 pm

All totally predictable - once you've made a society afraid, it's pretty hard to make them NOT be afraid.
Here's a great article that sums it up.


Here's a sample quote: "there’s a small but vocal group who refuse to embrace the good news and feel that the show must go on ... There are the low-information contingent who are only seeing the doom and gloom headlines and tweets and aren’t aware of the considerable nuanced and contextualized information that has led others towards embracing a better path forward"

Up 102 Down 41

iBrian on Jul 26, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Not to be blunt. But the First Nation governments don’t need to be open for business to make money. They receive Federal Government financial support.
I have had to put my life on hold, change career industries, to pay my bills and keep my investments in tourism; and have been forced to get the vaccine to keep my equipment operator job.
I’d like to go back to working with people from outside the Yukon and not wear a mask.
If you're scared, stay home. No shame in that. And these PCR tests, even my 10 year old knows they give False positives more often then not.

Up 114 Down 31

Thomas Brewer on Jul 26, 2021 at 3:05 pm

Given that the FN population only comprises 24% of all of Yukon's residents, it is prudent and proper that the territorial gov't makes decisions with the entire Yukon population in mind, not pandering to one minority over another.

Up 69 Down 55

Matthew on Jul 26, 2021 at 2:39 pm

If masks and socialist distancing actually worked we wouldn't have any cases, especially with an extremely high vaccination rate we have, but here we are.. it's going to be a LOT harder to force the next set of rules upon us that's for sure!

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