What one medically-compromised youth says about dropping mask mandates in the N.W.T.

·2 min read
Riley Oldford, 17, was the first youth in the N.W.T. to get the COVID-19 vaccine in May of 2021. Janie Neudorf, the nurse who administered it, said at the time that he was 'making history.'  (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Riley Oldford, 17, was the first youth in the N.W.T. to get the COVID-19 vaccine in May of 2021. Janie Neudorf, the nurse who administered it, said at the time that he was 'making history.' (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Mask mandates may have dropped, but one N.W.T. youth who is medically compromised says he's still taking precautions and wants the information on COVID-19 transmission to keep flowing.

For 14 months, 17-year-old Riley Oldford stayed isolated at home and while he is almost finished Grade 11, he's completed most of his high school education online.

Oldford was the first person under 18 to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the N.W.T. He's still concerned about the risk of contracting COVID-19 because he lives with cerebral palsy and a chronic lung condition.

But Oldford said he doesn't see a problem with the restrictions dropping coming into summer, so long as there is continued information about COVID-19 transmission.

"I can see both sides," he said, of dropping mask mandates.

During the Easter holidays, many people gathered but information about transmission has decreased because reporting of positive test results was no longer mandatory as of April 1.

"I do a lot of things online," Oldford said, like playing video games and board games online.

Sarah Bridge/CBC
Sarah Bridge/CBC

During the height of the pandemic, if there were no active cases in Yellowknife, Oldford said he would attend sledge hockey more often.

This year, there is a smaller group of players which limits the number of players on the ice and he wears a KN95 mask, which makes it harder for him to breathe.

Over 2 years of being 'very cautious'

Going into school is still a risk.

It's also where his mother, Sharon Oldford works.

She said she and her son continue to mask, but the dropped restrictions mean there is a higher risk of coming into contact with COVID-19.

She's still concerned about the long-term impacts of the virus on people with underlying medical conditions.

Even though much of Canada has downgraded COVID-19 restrictions, the pandemic has still changed the way her son can access things like medical appointments.

He continues to see a pediatrician online, but has had to delay appointments, like traveling down south to find out what adaptations he would need to be able to drive.

"It's been over two years of being very cautious and being afraid that you're going to bring something home."

At Sir John Franklin High School, masks are still required in common areas, like in hallways where 700 kids have to switch classrooms in the space of ten minutes.

Sharon said she's being cautious and changing her clothes when she comes home to reduce risk.

"It makes it a little bit scarier because you don't have to wear a mask in public."

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