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Yukon’s acting chief medical officer of health says school-based surveillance and management of COVID-19 is the next “logical step” to keep pace with the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Dr. Catherine Elliott said the government will no longer be issuing school exposure notifications for the virus during a news conference Tuesday, the same day new restrictions on gatherings took effect.

Elliott says while most schools have transitioned back to in-person learning, some are pivoting to remote learning based on low staffing levels due to the Omicron variant.

To help keep families updated, parents will be informed directly by their schools of any operational changes and a daily snapshot of the school situation will be posted to Yukon.ca.

Elliott says no one is currently hospitalized in the territory with COVID-19, but 27 new cases were reported, bringing the total number of confirmed active cases to 306.

She says it makes more sense for the government to monitor COVID-19′s spread through schools based on higher-level absenteeism rates rather than waiting for individual cases to be tested and confirmed through interviews.

“We expect other schools to shift to remote learning for short periods due to similar circumstances,” she says.

Premier Sandy Silver says the territory expects to receive 100 treatment courses of an antiviral treatment by Pfizer recently approved by Health Canada for treatment of high-risk COVID-19 cases.

Under new guidelines released Friday, all private and public gatherings are limited to 10 people or two vaccinated households, including team sports, recreation, leisure and cultural activities.

This also includes bars and restaurants, which will remain limited to six people per table, and must close no later than 10 p.m., although takeout may continue later.

Silver says Omicron has “changed the game” in Yukon, but the territory has the benefit of learning from other jurisdictions.

While there are no hospitalizations, he says even four cases in Yukon hospitals could be considered overwhelming because as a rural territory it has fewer resources and staffing shortages are also a factor.

Elliott noted that changes to the requirements for PCR testing means total cases are believed to be higher than those reported.

Casinos and nightclubs remain closed, while indoor weddings and funerals are postponed.

Outdoor personal gatherings remain limited to a maximum of 25 people from up to three households.

Outdoor organized events are limited to 50 people and proof of vaccination is required for those who meet the age eligibility.

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