August 24 COVID-19 Update

Current COVID-19 Situation in Ross River

Ross River Dena Council advises all community members that as of 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 the number of active cases involving members of our community has decreased to 12, with 10 of these cases currently self-isolating in Ross River.

Over the weekend the active case count decreased from 20 to 14, however there were four new positives and the count reached 18 by Monday afternoon before an additional six recoveries were reported, resulting in the current count of 12.

It is expected that these fluctuations will continue over the coming days, and more cases are expected, however it is not yet known how long this trend will last. 

All confirmed cases are now self-isolating, and any close contacts and household contacts are being notified by Yukon Communicable Disease Control about the requirement to self-isolate.

Council reminds community members that if you or someone you know has been directed to self-isolate, you must continue to self-isolate until Yukon Communicable Disease Control or the Ross River Health Centre gives you the all clear. 

To report someone those who may not be following self-isolation guidelines, community members can call (867) 393-6210 and a Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) officer will verify the information with Yukon Communicable Disease Control before an officer is dispatched.

Watching For Symptoms This Week

Last week Ross River reached its highest case count since the start of the pandemic.

As the community with the lowest vaccination rate in the Yukon (47% fully vaccinated, 60% partially vaccinated) and with so many close contacts and household contacts now in self-isolation, there is a distinct possibility that individuals who have been asymptomatic since last week could begin to show symptoms this week.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches

If you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, please self-isolate immediately and contact the Ross River Health Centre at 969-4444 to arrange for a COVID-19 test.

Current Risk Level 5 (Extreme)  

The current COVID-19 Risk Level for Ross River remains at Level 5 (Extreme) and the following COVID-19 safety measures remain in effect:  

  • The Dena General Store will now be closed on Sundays and Tuesdays for cleaning and store management advises that new safety measures will be in place to support pick-up and delivery services, depending on the COVID-19 situation in Ross River. To place an order for delivery please call 969-2280 and/or send an email to and someone will respond as soon as possible; 
  • Tu-Lidlini Petroleum advises that the gas station will have reduced hours from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. until further notice and that customers are strongly encouraged to use the Cardlock system to pay for fuel; 
  • Banking services will be available at the Dena General Store on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – services are provided at the door, as the store is currently closed to the public. 
  • The following travel advisory is now in effect:  
    • NO VISITORS – Please do not visit Ross River at this time;  
    • ROSS RIVER CITIZENS: ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY – Ross River citizens are asked to respect all travel advisories currently in effect and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our neighbouring communities of Watson Lake, Faro and Carmacks. Please refrain from travelling to these communities unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e. for medical reasons)
  • Ross River Dena Council offices will remain closed to the public until further notice. For staff, the offices remain in the first phase of a three-phase Re-Opening Plan, which includes a schedule for each building and provides access for up to three staff members in RRDC buildings at one time;
  • Ross River Dena Council will continue to engage with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Department of Health and Social Services and the COVID Response Unit to help strengthen community-level support. 

These measures were introduced in response to the outbreak in Whitehorse and the presence of COVID-19 in multiple communities, including Ross River. Council continues to work with territorial health authorities and our neighbouring communities to monitor the situation and takes this matter very seriously. 

Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Community Members

As the COVID-19 situation in Ross River advances Council is asking everyone to please remain calm, to keep looking out for one another and to continue taking every possible precaution in the days ahead. 

Your efforts to practise the Safe 6+1 and follow the local COVID-19 safety measures will play an important role to keeping our elders, our families and the most vulnerable members of our community safe.

Council is asking everyone to please continue to:

  • Wear a mask
  • Wash your hands
  • Stay at least six feet apart 
  • Do not participate in gatherings
  • Do not visit with others
  • Self-isolate after travel if unvaccinated 

With 12 cases and numerous exposures in the community, now more than ever it will be important to contact the Ross River COVID-19 Support Line at 747-0099 or the Ross River Health Centre at 969-4444 if you, or someone you know, is showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Help Us Stay Connected

While there is ongoing support for individuals in self-isolation using the Ross River COVID-19 Support Line, there may be some individuals who do not have phones, and may be unaware of the dangers and/or may be showing symptoms.

If you observe a community member who is sick and does not have a plan to self-isolate, please call the Ross River COVID-19 Support Line at 747-0099 and we can help by providing temporary cel phones and self-isolation support for individuals in need.

Back to School Discussions Under Way 

With our community’s COVID-19 Risk Level at Level 5 (Extreme) and with a dozen cases, numerous exposures and multiple youth in self-isolation, Council has opened new dialogue with the Government of Yukon about the possibility of postponing the launch of the school year by one week due to the current COVID-19 situation in Ross River.

Currently the school year is set to begin next Monday, August 30 – a significant concern for parents, grandparents and great grandparents who must decide whether or not to send a child to school when there are so many positive cases in the community.  

Council takes the current COVID-19 situation very seriously, but also understands how important it will be for students to return to class once it is considered safe to do so. Working with the Department of Education along with the Department of Health and Social Services and the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Council has brought forward the concerns raised by parents and families, and has provided insight that we hope will improve understanding of the situation in Ross River – to help ensure teachers, parents, students (and the elders who may be living with them) are not put in harm’s way.

While it is possible that our case count could be significantly lower next week, it is also possible that it could be much higher. With so much uncertainty and concern, Council appreciates that Department of Education officials are now exploring solutions and are working with Council to help keep our children, our elders, our families and the most vulnerable members of our community safe.

Extraordinary Challenges Will Require Extraordinary Solutions

With this recent spike in cases in Ross River, we all extremely concerned for the well-being of our elders, our families and the most vulnerable members of our community.

Council wishes to express our sincerest gratitude for the prayers received from across the Yukon over the past week, and we would like to thank everyone who has been reaching out to better understand our current COVID-19 challenges the origins of vaccine hesitancy in our community. 

We are proud of the safety measures that have helped our community remain relatively free of COVID-19, however we now recognize that COVID-19 is here, and that we face a number of extraordinary challenges that will require some extraordinary solutions.

For those who may be unfamiliar with our current COVID-19 challenges, here are some of the more significant issues we face as our community prepares for more cases:

  • Many of our community members are living in substandard and overcrowded homes, including elders and youth, therefore household exposures represent a significant threat to families and those who may have visited with others in recent days; 
  • Many community members do not have cel phones or Internet at home, therefore on-the-ground efforts are essential to keeping community members informed during a crisis, both in English and in our traditional languages;
  • Numerous community members struggle with addictions and have not been vaccinated;
  • Numerous community members have pre-existing health conditions are cannot be vaccinated;
  • Many of our community members have been uncomfortable visiting the Health Centre to receive the standard PCR COVID-19 test (long swab). As a result, some became sick but were not counted or tracked by territorial officials because they had not received a positive test result. Council requested rapid testing support on July 31, August 4, and August 10 but was advised there were not enough active cases to warrant a clinic. When a rapid testing clinic was eventually approved for August 17, approximately 150 community members proceeded to get a test over three days – and 20 cases were detected. This is significant evidence that having a rapid testing solution available in Ross River would be a legitimate approach to addressing testing hesitancy. With the rapid testing clinic now over, Council is concerned that hesitancy will become a factor once again.
  • Due to the number of new exposures, Ross River Dena Council is no longer able to track which members have been exposed and who must remain in self-isolation. This will now be fully managed by the Ross River Health Centre, and RRDC’s efforts will focus on providing assistance using the Ross River COVID-19 Support Line and by responding to requests for community-level support from community members and the Ross River Health Centre;
  • Numerous members of RRDC staff have been exposed and must now self-isolate, which is now impacting our ability to deliver services to the growing number of individuals in self-isolation;
  • While there is an office available for a mental health worker in the community, it has been empty for over a year and the regional mental wellness phone line was discontinued; 
  • Volunteers are doing their best to support members who are self-isolating alone and may be struggling with mental wellness and addictions, however a more sustainable approach is needed; and
  • The Dena General Store, the only store in the community and a central gathering place, has been closed to the public since the outbreak began June – switching to pick-up and delivery services only. This was done to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Staff have been working tirelessly to keep up with deliveries and orders for pick-up, however with so many individuals now in self-isolation, and with so many exposures, a new approach to pick-up and delivery will be required should the numbers continue to increase. Council is aware that closing the store would increase the risk to our neighbouring communities, as such, we are exploring solutions that would keep the store open in the event that COVID-19 cases continue to accelerate. Should Council opt to issue a Stay-at-Home Notice this would require a plan for the mobilization of grocery delivery, mail delivery and banking services.

Additional COVID-19 impacts and observations made by Council since the start of the pandemic include:

  • Numerous youth have missed an entire year of school and still do not have Internet at home to support virtual learning;
  • A staffing shortage combined with COVID-19 safety challenges along with difficulties finding contactors has severely limited our ability to build new homes or repair existing homes, including the installation of much-needed ramps for elders;
  • Ross River Dena Council Offices have been closed to the public since mid-June and phone and Internet challenges have limited our ability to respond to requests from community members; 
  • Alcohol continues to be purchased in Faro and sold to minors in Ross River, resulting in gatherings and high-risk activities that pose an immediate risk to our population. With no budget for safety officers in the community, and no arrests made by RCMP, this has resulted in complex challenges that have a direct impact on everyone’s efforts to navigate a health crisis;
  • CEMA enforcement is led by the Ross River RCMP detachment, however there has been high turnover and limited capacity to respond as the detachment is currently responsible for both Ross River and Faro, which is also short staffed;
  • Ross River is an unincorporated community, which means there is no municipal government to assist the First Nation with essential services to community members;
  • Ross River currently does not have a fire department and some residents are currently living in abandoned buildings that are not equipped with working smoke detectors;
  • Phone lines, cel phone services and Internet services are frequently down at the First Nation Offices and across the community, and there are no technicians in the community;
  • The first phase of a three-phase Re-Opening Plan remains in place, allowing up to three staff members to be in RRDC Offices at one time, however employees who feel uncomfortable about coming to work during an outbreak are encouraged to work from home, which can be difficult due to limitations associated with connectivity and other factors;
  • Recreation facilities in Ross River have been closed for more than a year, which is having a significant impact on our youth;
  • Many of our community members are survivors of the Residential School system but were unable to travel to the ceremony in Lower Post due to COVID-19 concerns, which means healing and accessible mental health support for our members remains as a priority;
  • COVID-19 Announcements are often focused on Whitehorse and do not reflect Yukon’s rural reality, and therefore do not inspire our members to believe in the messages being delivered by other levels of government; and
  • Our elected Member of the Legislative Assembly has not visited or reached out to assist our community since the election.

With all of this to consider, we look forward to working with our federal and territorial partners over the days, weeks and months ahead to find real solutions that will help keep our elders, our families and the most vulnerable members of our community safe this fall and winter.

What is Needed Right Now

Council is now collecting information to fully assess the scope of work ahead, but has established that there are six key areas that require immediate attention:

  • Ongoing Rapid Testing Support – Ongoing rapid testing will be essential to help address testing hesitancy in the community, as many of our members, including elders, do not wish to receive the standard PCR (long swab) COVID-19 test. Council is now asking for a permanent rapid testing solution to be available at the Ross River Health Centre as a way to remove this extremely challenging barrier, which is already had a negative impact on our health and wellness outcomes, and with multiple elders hospitalized we ask that this be considered as the highest priority;
  • Delivery Services Support – Temporary workers are needed, preferably vaccinated community members with vehicles who can help deliver groceries and medication to elders and individuals in self-isolation;
  • COVID-19 Safety Stop Support – Temporary workers are needed at the COVID-19 Safety Stop, preferably vaccinated community members with a strong voice and knowledge of current COVID-19 situation;
  • Mental Wellness Support – A phone support worker is needed in the community who can listen, answer questions and offer guidance that reflects a genuine understanding of the community and its people;
  • Community Outreach Support – A temporary COVID-19 Coordinator position is still available and is open to anyone who can assist with the development and distribution of COVID-19 information for community members at this very important moment in our history; and
  • Community Safety Officers – Regarding enforcement, RCMP have a responsibility to follow up on CEMA infractions, however a more proactive approach will be essential to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Ross River. Council believes Community Safety Officers are needed immediately, however we do not have a budget nor are there trained staff available to assume this role. We are now seeking any assistance to help mobilize safety officers immediately.

Council will be working with our government partners to help advance these priorities in the days ahead, but we welcome anyone who is interested in helping or volunteering to please call the Ross River COVID-19 Support Line at (867) 747-0099. Your time and support will be instrumental to helping us flatten the curve and save lives in Ross River. Please call if you have any questions about the priorities above or if you wish to suggest alternative solutions that worked in other remote communities. All suggestions will be welcomed.

Travel Advisory – Do Not Visit Ross River At This Time

We can all help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following travel advisories that have been put in place by Yukon First Nations and municipalities.

With the current outbreak impacting families in Ross River, Watson Lake, Carmacks and Faro, Council is asking Yukoners and travellers from outside of the territory to please continue to respect the travel advisory for Ross River, which reads as follows:   

  • NO VISITORS – Please do not visit Ross River at this time;  
  • ROSS RIVER CITIZENS: ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY – Ross River citizens are asked to respect all travel advisories currently in effect and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our neighbouring communities of Watson Lake, Faro and Carmacks. Please refrain from travelling to these communities unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e. for medical reasons) 

Please visit the Council of Yukon First Nations website for more information about current travel advisories.

Other COVID-19 Considerations

Here are some additional considerations and resources to help keep Ross River safe:

  • If you or someone you know had really mild symptoms and recently tested negative for COVID-19 this is good news, however it is not the end of the story. If symptoms get worse in the days (and weeks) following a test, it’s a good idea to self-isolate and call the Health Centre at 969-4444 to arrange for another test – when it comes to COVID-19, it’s way better to be safe than sorry;
  • For the latest COVID-19 Self-Isolation Guidelines:;
  • If you see someone who was known to be self-isolating but may not be following the current the self-isolation guidelines, you can report this activity here;
  • If you live with others and are not able to self-isolate, please inform the Health Centre or Ross River Dena Council and efforts will be made to arrange for temporary self-isolation options; and
  • Anyone seeking mental wellness support are encouraged to call the Reach Out Support Line at 1-844-533-3030 or the LifeWorks Crisis Support Line at 1-844-751-2133 (open 24 hours, 7 days a week). Community members can also call (867) 332-5468 to reach the Mental Health, Counselling and Crisis Support Line for Ross River, Pelly Crossing, Carmacks and Faro citizens.

Volunteers Needed

Ross River Dena Council has established the RRDC COVID-19 Action Plan Working Group to advise Council and help coordinate COVID-19 community outreach and support efforts during an unprecedented public health emergency. For more information about the Working Group or if you would like to volunteer and help make a difference, please send an email to the Working Group Co-Chairs Verna Nukon at and/or Dylan Loblaw at You can also reach us by calling the Ross River COVID-19 Support Line at 747-0099 at any time. 

Thank you,

Ross River Dena Council