Yukon to drop COVID-19 vaccination requirement for gov't staff, mask mandate

Yukon to drop COVID-19 vaccination requirement for gov't staff, mask mandate

Yukon plans to drop its remaining COVID-19 public health restrictions in the coming weeks, including mandatory masking and the requirement for public servants to be vaccinated.

Premier Sandy Silver made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday morning.

"After a long and difficult two years, 2022 is looking promising," Silver said, alongside acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Catherine Elliott.

"We have moved past the Omicron wave, and thanks to the diligence of Yukoners again following these public health measures, we have prevented our health care system from being overwhelmed."

Last week, officials announced that as of Friday, there will be no more capacity limits or size limits for gatherings, and bars and restaurants will be able to resume normal service without six-foot spacing between tables. Dancing and mingling between tables will also be allowed again.

On Thursday, Silver confirmed that the remaining public health measures will also be lifted in the coming weeks, provided that infection trends continue:

  • Masks will no longer be mandatory in indoor public places as of March 18, but their use will still be recommended.

  • Proof of vaccination will no longer be required to access designated sites as of March 18.

  • Government employees will no longer have to be vaccinated, as of April 4.

Silver said that private businesses and organizations can still require masks or proof of vaccination if they choose.

Speaking of the government's vaccine mandate for public servants, Silver said that as of Feb. 15 nearly 95 per cent of those workers had attested to being fully vaccinated.

"As the territory's largest employer, the government of Yukon has a duty to lead by example and do our part to keep Yukoners safe," he said.

"This vaccination requirement has been very effective in minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in our workplace and ensuring continuity of service delivery."

He said if things continue to go well in the coming weeks, "many" of the employees who have not attested will be able to return to work on April 4. He also said officials were still evaluating how to manage unvaccinated workers in some settings.

"We've always said, from the beginning, that this was a temporary public health measure," he said of the vaccine mandate.

Past the crest

As of Tuesday afternoon, the government was reporting 43 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 with four of them new. The test positivity rate for lab-based PCR testing was 29.6 per cent.

The government's official count does not include all positive cases, as Yukoners who test at home are not all required to report their results.

Also on Tuesday, health officials reported the territory's 21st death from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Elliott said on Wednesday that the territory was past the crest of the Omicron wave, and case numbers have stabilized.

She said the government's response was early and proactive, and that's what helped avoid a more serious outbreak.

"We never locked down. We kept businesses open, we kept schools open," Elliott said.

"We minimized the amount of time with the most stringent measures."

Yukon Hospitals reported that space was available at all the territory's hospitals as of Tuesday morning, though space was "limited" in the Whitehorse intensive care unit.