Current COVID-19 Situation in Ross River
Ross River Dena Council advises that as of 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ross River.
While this is good news, the situation across the Yukon is becoming very serious, and the risk that Omicron will spread to rural communities is now extremely high.
For this reason, effective Friday, January 7, Council advises that the COVID-19 Risk Level for Ross River will be elevated to Risk Level 5 (Extreme) and enhanced safety measures will be introduced at the community level to help keep our elders, our families and the most vulnerable members of our community safe.
This step is being taken for multiple reasons:
- Omicron is far more transmissible than previous variants of COVID-19;
- The number of cases in Yukon has jumped to over 300 over the past week and this number is expected to climb in the coming days/weeks;
- Ross River has the lowest vaccination rate in the Yukon (67% partially vaccinated, 62% fully vaccinated and 14% have received boosters);
- Fully-vaccinated members of the community can still become infected and spread Omicron to others;
- Unvaccinated members of the community are more likely to experience severe illness than those who are vaccinated;
- Ross River has a small Health Centre very limited emergency response capacity due to staffing shortages;
- The Yukon Government has advised that contact tracing is no longer manageable for Yukon Communicable Disease Control, therefore contact tracing will be the responsibility of those who become sick (anyone who tests positive will be responsible for contacting the individuals they came into contact with over the previous 72 hours);
- The Government of Yukon is no longer asking individuals who are sick to arrange for a standard COVID-19 test, which means community-level case count information is expected to become less reliable.
While this all sounds very challenging, Council advises that there are still plenty of ways to help keep Ross River safe while supporting one another. Please continue to:
- Wear a mask;
- Wash your hands;
- Stay at least six feet apart;
- Arrange for curbside pick-up or delivery at the store;
- Only travel for essential reasons (i.e medical appointment);
- Do not host or participate in gatherings;
- Do not visit with others; and
- Stay at home if you (or someone you live with) are sick.
Adjusting Our Community-Level Safety Measures
Because Omicron spreads much faster than previous variants, and because the territorial government is no longer tracking every case, Council advises that the actual number of cases in our community over the coming weeks is likely to be much higher than the case count information on the Government of Yukon’s website suggests.
On the other hand, unlike last summer when vaccination rates were much lower, there is now a significantly higher percentage of our population that has some form of protection.
Hence, as we return to Risk Level 5 (Extreme) on Friday, we are introducing safety measures similar to those that were in place last summer, but with some minor modifications to reflect the current situation. The updated measures are as follows:
- The Dena General Store is asking community members to arrange for curbside pick-up or delivery as the safest way to shop, but will continue to allow a handful of customers to enter the store at one time if they do not have a vehicle during extreme cold temperatures. To place an order please call (867) 969-2280 and/or send an email to email@example.com and a representative will respond as soon as possible;
- Banking services will still 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.
- 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;
- All RRDC Offices will be closed to the public until further notice;
- Do not hold or participate in indoor personal gatherings or outdoor personal gatherings that involve more than one household, regardless of vaccination status;
- Travel restrictions
- 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 note, the current the case count in Yukon (as of January 5) is 325, up 66 cases from yesterday. If you have questions about the current case information, vaccination rate and COVID-19 Risk Level for Ross River, please visit our COVID-19 Dashboard for more information. You can also call the Ross River COVID-19 Support Line at (867) 747-0099 if you have any questions or would like assistance with grocery delivery, laundry or other support services related to the COVID-19 situation.
New Temporary Public Health Measures For Personal Gatherings
The Yukon remains under a State of Emergency, and to help prevent unwanted pressure on our health care system, the Government of Yukon introduced new temporary public health measures on December 31, 2021, including:
- Limits on indoor personal gatherings to 10 people from a maximum of two households if all eligible people are vaccinated; household members only if any eligible people are unvaccinated.
- Limits on outdoor personal gatherings to 25 people from a maximum of three households regardless of vaccination status.
While these measures are designed to limit the impact of a COVID-19 outbreak to two or three households, Council believes these measures are better suited for larger urban centres like Whitehorse, where the vaccination rates are high and an outbreak of 10-20 individuals is considered to be minor.
A similar outbreak in a rural community that has low vaccination rates, overcrowded homes, depleted emergency response capacity and no enforcement capacity could result in far more serious outcomes.
With this in mind, Council is introducing new enhanced community-level safety measures for gatherings to help prevent household-to-household spread in Ross River. The new measures are as follows:
- No indoor personal gatherings involving more than one household. This means no game nights, parties or social gatherings of any kind that involve multiple households, regardless of vaccination status.
- No outdoor personal gatherings involving more than one household. This includes outdoor recreation or outdoor social activities that involve multiple households, regardless of vaccination status.
Personal gatherings now pose a clear risk to our elders, our families and the most vulnerable members of our community. Council asks that all parties, game nights and social activities involving more than one household be postponed until further notice.
Remote Learning Strongly Recommended Until January 14
Ross River Dena Council does not support the Government of Yukon’s decision to re-open schools while there is a surge in Omicron cases and no rapid testing support in place for teachers, parents and students.
Taking into consideration Ross River’s current COVID-19 Risk Level (5 – Extreme), Omicron’s rate of transmission and our community’s current vaccination rate (the lowest in Yukon), returning to class without sufficient rapid testing support is not considered a safe option for our students, their families or the community at large.
For this reason, Council is advising all students to reach out to their teachers in order to set up remote learning for the remainder of this week, until January 14.
Council will review this matter over the next week, and we look forward to engaging with our partners to identify a range of options and solutions that will allow for the safe return to school as soon as possible.
Antigen Rapid Testing Program To Launch in Ross River
Ross River Dena Council will be launching a rapid testing program in the coming days.
Due to limited supplies, the rollout of this program will be targeted towards frontline workers at the Dena General Store, Post Office and Bank, as well as any RRDC employees who wish to work at the office while the community is at Risk Level 5 (Extreme).
Once Council has secured enough supplies, a more robust rapid testing campaign will begin in the community. This will enhance support to include the delivery of rapid testing kits to individual households upon request. This would allow anyone who has minor symptoms to call the COVID-19 Support Line at (867) 747-0099 to request same-day delivery of a rapid testing kit to your door.
Our ultimate goal will be to secure enough supplies to provide all households and workplaces with rapid testing kits, however currently the supply is limited.
In the meantime, if you or someone you know has a minor cough, sore throat or sniffles, please treat this seriously, self-isolate immediately and contact contact the Health Centre at (867) 969-4444 to arrange for a standard PCR COVID-19 test.
Mouth-Rinse and Gargle Test Also Available in Ross River
To help address testing hesitancy, Council continues to request ongoing rapid testing at the community level. The Government of Yukon has heard this request, and as an interim measure the Ross River Health Centre is now offering a mouth-rinse and gargle test for anyone five years of age and older who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
This test is a far less-invasive approach to virus detection, and is an excellent solution for community members who have concerns about the standard test, which can sometimes be uncomfortable.
If you wish to go for a mouth-rinse and gargle test, please do not eat, drink, smoke, vape, brush your teeth or chew gum for at least one hour before you do the mouth-rinse and gargle test.
If you have any questions, or would like more information please contact the Health Centre at (867) 969-4444. The following resources are also available:
- To book a COVID-19 test in Ross River, please call the Health Centre at (867) 969-4444;
- To book a COVID-19 test in Whitehorse, visit the online booking tool here;
- The mouth rinse and gargle instructions are available here;
- To watch a video for kids on how to use the mouth-rinse and gargle test go here; and
- To watch a video for adults on how to use the mouth-rinse and gargle test, go here.
Current Vaccination Rates
Please note, Council continues to advise that the vaccine is your best bet to help protect yourself and members of your family this winter.
There have only been a handful of cases in Ross River since the start of September, however our current vaccination rate still the lowest in the territory (62% fully vaccinated, 67% partially vaccinated and 14% have received boosters), which means the risk to our elders, our families and our most vulnerable community members remains very high.
While Omicron is now spreading to both vaccinated and unvaccinated Yukoners, unvaccinated Yukoners have consistently experienced more severe outcomes.
If you or someone you know has questions or would like to book an appointment for an upcoming vaccination opportunity please contact the Health Centre at (867) 969-4444.
Upcoming Vaccination Opportunities
Ross River Dena Council has requested more booster appointments be made available at the Health Centre as quickly as possible. Please monitor the Government of Yukon’s website for more information or you can also call the Health Centre at (867) 969-4444 to inquire about upcoming clinics and appointment opportunities.
If You Are Sick, Stay Home and Stay Safe!
A reminder that if you have any symptoms, even mild symptoms, the decision to go to work, school, the store or another person’s house could put the health of our elders, our families, your friends, neighbours, co-workers, fellow students, teachers and others at risk.
If you or someone you know has symptoms, please contact the Health Centre at (867) 969-4444 to discuss the situation and arrange for a COVID-19 test.
Symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Loss of sense of taste or smell
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
Even if you or someone you know has just a minor cough, sore throat or sniffles, it is important to stay home and arrange for a test. This may or may not be COVID-19, but Council asks that everyone please take this matter seriously – even if you are fully vaccinated.
Current COVID-19 Risk Level: 5 (Extreme Risk)
As of on January 5, 2021 there are no confirmed cases in Ross River, however the Omicron variant has become the dominant strain in Yukon and the case count for the territory is now over 300. Approximately 67% of our population is partially vaccinated, 62% of our population is fully vaccinated and 14% have received boosters. As a result, the current COVID-19 Risk Level for Ross River is now at Level 5 (Extreme) and the following COVID-19 safety measures will be in effect until further notice:
- The Dena General Store is asking everyone to shop safely by arranging for curbside pick-up or delivery, but will allow some customers in the store due to the extreme cold. To place an order please call (867) 969-2280 and/or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will respond as soon as possible;
- 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.
- Tu-Lidlini Petroleum advises that the gas station will continue to 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;
- The following travel advisory is now in effect:
- VISITORS – Please refrain from visiting Ross River at this time;
- ROSS RIVER CITIZENS: ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY – Only travel for essential reasons (i.e. medical appointments). Please respect all travel advisories currently in effect.
- At Level 5 (Extreme Risk) Ross River Dena Council offices remain closed to the public until further notice;
- Ross River Dena Council will continue to engage with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Department of Health and Social Services, the Department of Education and other interagency partners to help strengthen community-level support.
What Do the COVID-19 Risk Levels Mean for Me?
Level 5 (Extreme Risk) indicates that there is at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ross River and/or the risk of transmission in rural Yukon is extremely high. As a result, a number of community-level safety measures will be deployed to help raise awareness, prevent the spread and support those community members who are in self isolation. Level 5 is also an indication that increased safety measures will be in place at the Dena General Store, Tu-Lidlini Petroleum and all RRDC Offices. For those who may be uncomfortable entering the store, delivery and pick-up options will still be encouraged as a safety measure. To order groceries, please call (867) 969-2280 or email email@example.com to place your order.
While at Level 4 (High Risk), the Dena General Store will allow up to six customers in the store at one time. Banking and post office services may be limited and/or may be offered at the front door to help keep things efficient. Also at Level 4, the store will be operating during regular business hours from Monday-Saturday, unlike at Level 5.
Level 3 (Medium Risk) could soon be on the horizon. Once the risk level reaches Level 3, members of the public will be permitted to enter RRDC Offices by appointment only. Level 3 would also mean it is no longer necessary to operate the COVID-19 Safety Stop, which was in place to provide additional community outreach and collect important visitor information during periods of high and/or extreme risk.
At Level 2 (Low Risk), the store will be fully opened, and RRDC buildings will once again be open to the public. Reaching Level 1 (New Normal) means there are no longer any active cases in the Yukon and the risk to the community is very, very low.
To learn more about the COVID-19 Risk Levels, please visit our COVID-19 Dashboard page.
Other COVID-19 Considerations
Here are some additional considerations and helpful COVID-19 resources:
- The Government of Yukon has created a new “Living with COVID-19” page that contains important messages to help guide Yukoners on the way forward. To check out this helpful resource, click here.
- For the latest COVID-19 Self-Isolation Guidelines: https://yukon.ca/en/self-isolation-covid-19;
- Anyone seeking mental health and wellness support are encouraged to call the LifeWorks Crisis Support Line at 1-844-751-2133 (open 24 hours, 7 days a week) or call (867) 332-5468 to reach the Mental Health, Counselling and Crisis Support Line for Ross River, Pelly Crossing, Carmacks and Faro citizens.
Job Opportunities / Volunteering Opportunities
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. The Working Group is open to anyone who wishes to lend a helping hand.
Ross River Dena Council is now seeking motivated community members who thrive under pressure and enjoy helping others to join our team and help lead the fight against COVID-19. The following positions are anticipatory and include temporary, part-time and full-time opportunities dedicated to leading a range of COVID-19 Prevention and COVID-19 Support Services activities.
- COVID-19 Community Outreach Coordinator
- COVID-19 Safety Officers (Rapid Testing Delivery Drivers)
- Self-Isolation Support (Delivery Drivers)
- Website Designer / Communications Officer
- Ross River COVID-19 Support Line Worker
If you are interested in one or more of these positions, please contact RRDC COVID-19 Action Plan Working Group Co-Chairs Verna Nukon (email to: firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or Dylan Loblaw (email to: email@example.com) today!
Ross River Dena Council