The provincial government has announced four new presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, with three of the patients having a history of travelling outside the province.
The first case involves a healthcare worker in their 30s with a history of travelling to Nigeria, Germany and Alberta. The individual is recovering at home in Southend, which is located roughly 459 km northeast of Prince Albert.
The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority released a statement saying the patient was tested at the Southend clinic on March 11 after developing symptoms. Persons who came in contact with the individual have been notified. The individual is currently in self-isolation, and the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority maintains that Saskatchewan residents are at low-risk of acquiring the virus.
The second involved a person in their 40s who traveled to Vancouver for a dental conference. An attendee at the conference was later confirmed to have COVID-19.
The third case involves another person in their 40s who lives in the same home as the second patient. This person did not travel to Vancouver. Both patients were tested on March 13 and are self-isolating at their home in Regina while they recover.
The fourth individual was tested for Coronavirus due to a history of travel to the United States, specifically the state of Tennessee. The individual was tested in Regina and is now self-isolating and self-recovering in their home community.
Public health officials are investigating individuals who had close contact with any of these four patients, according to a media release sent late Saturday night. The ministry will notify anyone who has had close contact with four new patients.
In response to the news, Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, recommended avoiding non-essential international travel until further notice. He also advised Saskatchewan residents travelling outside of Canada to halt their plans and return home. Shahab will provide further information about the latest developments during a press conference at 11 a.m. Sunday morning.
The provincial government has also tightened restrictions around visiting SHA-operated hospitals, clinics and continuing care facilities—effective immediately.
Patients in critical care or high acuity units in Saskatchewan Health Authority Hospitals will be limited to one visitor at a time, except for extenuating circumstances. All community, foundation, public or spiritual gatherings at SHA-operated facilities are also on hold until further notice. Non-essential volunteer services provided to these facilities by community members ages 65 years and over have also been suspended.
Anyone with respiratory or gastric symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, diarrhea or vomiting is asked to delay visiting, as is anyone who has travelled outside the province within the last 14 days. The restrictions apply to long-term care homes, clinics and hospitals.
“We acknowledge the importance of family support to both those who are healing within our hospitals and residents in long-term care homes,” a press release from the Saskatchewan Health Authority reads. “However, we are asking families to recognize that our patients and long-term care residents are a higher at-risk group for illness, especially COVID-19…. While we understand the benefit that family and loved ones contribute to overall comfort and care of patients, these steps are being taken to keep patients safe and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at this time.”
Coronavirus symptoms include coughing, fever and extreme fatigue. Residents can limit their chances of catching the virus by washing their hands frequently, not touching their face in public, and avoiding large gatherings.
“Most people, more than 80 per cent, who contract the virus do not become seriously ill,” Dr. Julie Kryzanowski, the SHA’s Senior Medical Health Officer, said during a media briefing on Saturday. “However, we know it can cause serious illness in some people, especially those who are older or who have other health conditions.”
The first two Saskatchewan residents to test positive for COVID-19 both had a history of travelling outside the country. They are both recovering at home in self-isolation.