Yukon eases COVID-19 restrictions for in-class learning in Whitehorse

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WHITEHORSE — Students in grades 10 to 12 in Whitehorse will soon return to classes as Yukon's top doctor says progress has been made with vaccinations.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley says there has been an uptick in the number of younger people getting vaccinated, and roughly 67 per cent of all eligible people in Yukon have received their first shot.

Yukon has one active case of COVID-19. Officials also recorded an additional case Wednesday involving a resident who obtained an infection outside the territory and who remains outside of Yukon.

The territory says in a statement that while that increases its case count, it doesn't change the active cases in Yukon.

Students in Whitehorse will return to classes on April 19.

Hanley says officials have heard from students who have struggled with their mental health or reported difficulties in learning from home.

He says reopening the classrooms is the territory's attempt to strike a balance between COVID-19 prevention and managing the effects of that prevention.

"We need to respond to those concerns and give a chance for students to get together for the last two months, that's 90 days of learning, to really restore that ability to get back in a face-to-face learning environment," Hanley said.

Eligible adults continue to receive vaccinations, which will help the territory avoid the severity of third waves seen elsewhere, he added.

Younger adults face a higher risk of more severe outcomes due to variants of COVID-19, Hanley said, which highlights the importance of receiving a vaccine.

"We're still at risk as variant cases surge in Canada. If we let our guard down, the variant of COVID could easily take hold, spread and cause one or more outbreaks," he said.

The goal is for the territory to have 75 per cent of its population immunized to help achieve herd immunity.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2021.

The Canadian Press