Two Saskatchewan residents in their 70s have passed away from complications related to COVID-19, the provincial government announced on Monday.
One case is linked to international travel, while the other is considered a community transmission, although health officials are still investigating. These are Saskatchewan’s first COVID-19 related deaths.
Newfoundland and Labrador also announced its first COVID-19 related death on Monday. As of March 30, more than 80 Canadians have died due to the virus.
“Today’s sad news is a sobering reminder for us all that COVID-19 is a dangerous and a deadly disease,” premier Scott Moe said during a media update Monday afternoon. “We have to keep making efforts to reduce the spread (of COVID-19) and we need to continue to adhere to the measures that are in place.”
“We know that this has been a very stressful time for all of us in Saskatchewan,” he added. “I would say that in addition to our physical health, we all need to make extra efforts to look after our mental health as well.”
The province declined to release any further details about the two deaths, including what communities they occurred in. Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, would only say they were in two separate parts of the province.
“It’s a very stressful time—a sad time—for families and we don’t want to do anything that would invade their privacy,” Shahab explained.
There are currently five COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the province. Four are in acute care and one is in intensive care. One inpatient is in the north, while the rest are in Saskatoon or Regina.
Moe and Shahab were asked if they regret not moving quicker to halt the virus’ spread. Both were confident the province had charted the best course possible.
“I think in this province we have moved at the appropriate time, to be quite frank,” Moe said. “It wasn’t that long ago that we had our first case in the province and we have advanced into the curve, like many other provinces across the nation…. Decisions that you make on one date really don’t have an impact for likely about 14 days into the future.”
“We actually had very few cases compared to many other provinces when we moved ahead with significant tests,” Shahab added. “At that time we were being questioned about (whether) this was sustainable. Like the premier said, all of us have seen great compliance with these recommendations…. I think, personally, we’ve done as much as could, as fast as we could.”
The government also announced 20 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 176. There are now 24 total cases linked to a snowmobile rally supper held in Christopher Lank on March 14. That’s four more than the 20 total cases reported on Sunday. As of March 29, the government had tracked down 76 of the roughly 130 people who attended the dinner.
Saskatchewan health officials have performed 9,651 COVID-19 tests to date. Moe said they’re going to change their testing focus from international travellers to community transmissions.
He also said they’re going to add 50 additional Ministry of Health employees to the group tasked with tracing contacts following a positive COVID-19 test. That will bring the total to around 200 people.
“We’ll be constantly reassessing (the situation) and we will reassign more staff if it is necessary in the days ahead,” Moe said.
Moe added that he’s confident the rate of infection will slow in the next two weeks if people continue to self-isolate.
Shahab, echoed those sentiments, saying he expects the number of cases to drop because residents have mostly followed restrictions on mass gatherings.