OHS Canada Magazine

Yukon health officials caution against travel to B.C.

Masks now required in school common areas


By Hina Alam in Vancouver

WHITEHORSE — Yukon’s chief medical health officer is cautioning against travel to British Columbia as COVID-19 cases in the province spike.

Dr. Brendan Hanley says while Yukon’s boundary with B.C. remains open, officials are keeping a close eye on crossings.

“If you are planning to attend a gathering, a wedding or a funeral in B.C., I ask that you rethink your visit,” Hanley said at a news conference Tuesday.

“Ask yourself if the gathering will be still able to go forward with the new restrictions. Are you able to attend virtually, or will the gathering be rescheduled?”

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Bans in B.C. related to social gatherings, group fitness, workplaces and travel in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions began Saturday and are to be in effect until Nov. 23.

On Monday, the province reported 998 new cases of COVID-19 over a two-day period. There were 4,891 active infections and five deaths for a total of 281.

Boundary remains open

Hanley said keeping the boundary open minimizes “societal disruption.”

About 200 people cross the border every day and about half are from Yukon, he said. The others are either B.C. residents or people coming through the province from other jurisdictions.

“We have not had any cases that can be attributed to the B.C. bubble arrangement,” Hanley said. “We’re still doing OK and we still continue to closely monitor.”

The arrangement allows residents of B.C., Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to travel back and forth freely without self-isolating.

However, Hanley recommended that residents returning to Yukon from particularly hard-hit areas in B.C., such as the Lower Mainland, should self-isolate, monitor for symptoms and get tested if they develop any.

Yukon has had 23 cases of COVID-19 and one death since the start of the pandemic.

Updates to schools safety

Hanley also updated health and safety guidelines for all kindergarten to Grade 12 students in the territory.

Students will now be required to maintain a one-metre distance between each other in classrooms. Masks will be required — not just recommended — in common areas including hallways, cafeterias, libraries and corridors.

Yukon officials also said they will continue to stay on a modified arrangement for the rest of the school year for Grades 10 to 12. Students receive half-day, in-class instruction and the remainder away from school five days a week.

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said the territory would have to hire up to 60 additional staff if students were to return for full-time, face-to-face classes.

“We do not have the adequate spacing or staff resources to accommodate a full-time return to class for Grades 10 to 12 students here in Whitehorse,” she said.

“And I want to be clear, it is not that we don’t have the funding for dozens of additional staff. The staff are just not available.”