Premier urges young people to stay home

Premier Scott Moe answers a question during a COVID-19 briefing in Regina on May 11. -- Screen capture from the Government of Saskatchewan Facebook page.

Premier Scott Moe had a message for residents in the 20-39 age group last Friday.

The largest group of COVID-19 infections is in people aged 20-39. In the past, that was attributed to health care and other frontline workers. Now, though, officials say it’s because residents in that age group are coming back positive more often in the La Loche area outbreak.

Strict travel restrictions remain in place in the northern part of the province.

Saskatchewan Health Authority executive director Scott Livingstone said control measures have mostly been effective as the spread is mostly within the community now, and not coming from outside of La Loche.

“We are very happy with our results today with respect to contact tracing and believe that we are doing a very good job of it, including in the north,” he said. “We’re seeing most of the cases now are being transmitted from COVID-positive patients inside the community. They’re not coming from outside of the community.”

Moe said work is ongoing to inform and enforce public health orders. He said information is being broadcast in four languages and the RCMP is doing its part to inform, and if necessary, enforce, public health orders to avoid gatherings of more than ten people and to self-isolate if you have contracted the virus.

“There are opportunities for us to continue to communicate with those who may not be physical distancing in some communities and this is a reminder that if we let our guard down for just a moment how quickly this virus will spread from person to person no matter if you’re in La Loche or Estevan or Esterhazy,” Moe said.

He also urged younger residents who may not be following the advice of officials to practice physical distancing.

“The numbers we have say that young adults are predominantly the ones contracting COVID-19. I won’t speak to why that is. But if the lack of physical distancing and not being entirely careful with the sharing of different items and the ultimate spread of this virus is a challenge. I would ask them to stop,” he said.

“I would ask the youth in La Loche to take their personal responsibility very seriously and pay attention to how to properly physical distance, how to not only protect themselves but the elders in their family, the elders in their community that they love and cherish very much.”

If people still aren’t listening, he said, there is the option of enforcement.

“It would be our expectation that the RCMP are looking through a phased approach with education for individuals who are not following the public health orders and leading up to enforcement.”

From May 1 to 7, there were 104 calls for service province-wide related to COVID-19, the RCMP said. Thirteen were for complaints of people failing to self-isolate when allegedly required to do so, 33 were for complaints of gatherings of more than 10 people and the remaining 58 were other complaints. One charge was laid in the northern district of the province. It’s only the fourth charge laid so far.

Moe wrapped up Friday’s update — which lasted over an hour — with a message for the whole province.

“What do I think about each and every morning? I wait for those numbers to come in and I cross my fingers and pray that there is not an additional fatality,” he said.

“Proper physical distancing prevents that. It has kept our fatalities to an absolute minimum and it has kept our infection rate to a minimum. I cannot understate the personal responsibility each and every one of us has in making sure we are practicing physical distancing. This has proven successful not only in protecting ourselves but protecting those that are elderly and those we love in our community.”