North

Children, staff of early learning, child care programs to no longer need to report positive COVID-19 tests

Until now, parents and guardians could check for possible COVID-19 exposures for early learning and child care programs on the territory's website. McLean said those programs will follow the same COVID-19 reporting process as schools starting Wednesday.

Government will also soon stop exposure notices for those programs, says Education Minister Jeanie McLean

Education Minister Jeanie McLean, pictured in a file photo. She announced that as of Wednesday, staff and children of child care and early learning programs in Yukon will no longer need to report positive COVID-19 cases. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Staff and children of child care and early learning programs in Yukon will no longer need to report positive COVID-19 cases starting Wednesday, says Yukon Education Minister Jeanie McLean.

She made the announcement during a COVID-19 news conference Tuesday morning, alongside Dr. Catherine Elliott, the acting chief medical officer of health.

The government will also be stopping exposure notices for those programs.

Until now, parents and guardians could check for possible COVID-19 exposures on the territory's website. Starting Wednesday though, McLean said child care and early learning programs follow the same COVID-19 reporting process as schools in the Yukon.

Earlier this month, the territory announced schools would not need to know from parents, students or staff whether they tested positive for COVID-19. Instead, schools only need to know that a child will be absent due to illness. 

"Doing this will allow principals to track absentee rates within their schools and notify YCDC (Yukon Communicable Disease Control) when there is an above average number of absences due to reported illness," McLean said during the update to address concerns around the changes.

"I know this feels like a dramatic shift. However, if there is an increased risk to the health and safety of students, or school staff, we will take the steps necessary to introduce additional health and safety measures."

The same will now go for early learning and child care programs.

Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Catherine Elliott, said the territory began rolling out 2,800 rapid tests to schools and licensed early learning and childcare programs in rural communities. (Jackie Hong/CBC )

Rapid tests to rural communities

Elliott said the Yukon government began rolling out 2,800 rapid tests to schools and licensed early learning and childcare programs in the rural communities and that the distribution process is still ongoing.

The Department of Education, along with early learning and child-care operators, will provide parents with information on how and when to pick up the tests.

Missed the news conference? Watch it here.

The territory said it is working with municipalities, Yukon First Nations and community partners to distribute an initial 10,875 rapid tests to communities across the territory, according to a news release issued Tuesday morning.

"This provides an additional option for symptomatic Yukoners living in communities to get tested. Lab-based PCR testing is still available at community health centres. As community pick-up details are confirmed, they will be added to Yukon.ca," the release reads in part.

People living in rural communities will get one test kit per person as part of the initial distribution, but people can expect to get more in the next round, the release says.

When it comes to booking vaccinations for children five to 11 years old, Elliott said during the new conference that parents may have to refresh the government's booking website each day to find availability. Currently, the site only shows appointment availability for this age group one day in advance.

"Appointments are ... constantly being put online," Elliott said, adding that officials are "tinkering" with the booking website based on the demand.

As of Tuesday, Elliott said there is one person in the hospital with COVID-19 in the territory. Another person has also been medevaced out of the territory for COVID-19 treatment, though no further details were provided other than that the territory is "monitoring that situation." That hospitalization is not included in Yukon's hospital case count numbers at this time, she said.

The update was given the morning after Elliott declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Whistle Bend Place long-term care home in Whitehorse.

On Friday, the territory announced a 16th person has died from the virus.

Last week, more health restrictions came into effect, forcing the postponement of most team sports in the territory.

Data from the Yukon government's website shows 239 active and confirmed cases present in the territory as of Monday, though the true number is likely higher than that due to rapid testing not being included in this count. As well, health officials have told Yukoners to assume they have COVID-19 if they have symptoms and to skip PCR testing.

now