Government ramps up COVID-19 testing for residents returning to work

Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab. (Screenshot)

Updated as of 5:33 p.m., Thursday, May 14.

Saskatchewan residents working from outside of their homes, particularly those returning to work, will soon have access to testing for COVID-19.

The government announced the initiative on Thursday.

According to a news release, the following at-risk populations will be proactively tested:

  • All patients upon admission or in advance of a planned admission to an acute care hospital for a stay anticipated to be greater than 24 hours. This includes all expectant mothers entering a health facility to give birth.
  • Immunocompromised asymptomatic individuals, including cancer patients in advance of undergoing immunosuppressive procedures such as chemotherapy.
  • All health staff working with immunocompromised patients.
  • Mobile (worksite) testing in high volume work settings (factories, industrial settings, etc.)

This is in addition to current testing requirements for residents identified as contacts of a positive or a suspected positive case, individuals identified as high risk due to active spread in their workplace or community, all residents upon admission or re-admission to long-term and personal care homes and all residents and staff in long-term and personal care homes after a positive case there.

“We really want to encourage, as businesses reopen, if employers and their staff have concerns, they can and should get tested even with mild symptoms or no symptoms,” said Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.

“People will have concerns. I think some people will think ‘Am I safe? Is the slight scratch in my throat due to me being exposed?’”

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is determining the process of this expanded testing, and more details will be available next week.

Additionally, the SHA is increasing active case findings in vulnerable populations, including those that are homeless. It will also continue increased active case findings in First Nations and Métis communities.

Shahab said they will be evaluating the expanded testing and decide if other groups should be added.

If widespread transmission occurs in a community, the SHA will implement a community-wide testing initiative. The Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory has the capacity to conduct 1,500 tests a day if needed.

Five new cases reported on Thursday, one in Regina’s Pasqua Hospital

Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 cases are continuing to increase at a small, steady rate. The government announced five new cases on Thursday, four in the La Loche area and one in Regina’s Pasqua Hospital.

Regina had made its way down to zero active cases before the positive result was announced on Thursday.

Shahab said the single positive patient in Regina is a similar situation to Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital earlier this month, although health officials haven’t declared an outbreak.

The person was in an assisted living facility before being admitted to hospital, and was asymptomatic. Public health is investigating and is unsure of where the individual contracted the virus.

Twenty health care workers have been identified as potential close contacts.

This brings the province’s total number of cases to 582, 178 of which are considered active.

On the other hand, the province reported 13 more recoveries. Since the pandemic entered Saskatchewan, 398 recoveries have been recorded.

Currently, there are 10 people in hospital. Seven are receiving inpatient care, three in the north, three in Saskatoon and one in Regina, and three additional people in Saskatoon are in intensive care.

Heading into the long weekend, Shahab asked residents to plan activities within your household and to limit contact with other households.

“Please do remember that the restrictions in gathering size do remain in place and practice all of the preventative measures we’ve talked about,” he said, including maintaining a proper physical distance and washing your hands.

Under the current public health order, gatherings of over 10 people are prohibited.

If you’re heading to your cabin, which won’t be possible in the north due to travel restrictions, Shahab said to stay on your property and bring your own supplies so you can limit going to stores.

As part of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan, golf courses and drive-in theatres will be able to begin operation on Friday under safety protocols. Phase two—which includes the reopening of retail businesses, select personal services such as hair salons, and farmers markets—begins Tuesday.

Presumptive case detected in Lac La Ronge

The SHA sent out a public service announcement on Thursday about a presumptive case in the northern community of Lac La Ronge.

The person in their 60s was tested at the La Ronge Health Centre on Wednesday after developing symptoms of COVID-19.

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Health Services, Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority and Saskatchewan Health Authority public health officials are tracing the person’s contacts.

Customers at the following businesses throughout these time periods are asked to watch for symptoms:

  • Fire Creek Gas Station in Saskatoon – May 4
  • Co-Op Gas Bar, La Ronge – May 4 -11
  • Robertson Store, La Ronge – May 11
  • Keethanow Supermarket, La Ronge – May 5-8
  • Keethanow Gas Bar, La Ronge – May 4
  • Craving Restaurant La Ronge – May 1-9

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, headache, chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose and a diminished sense of smell or taste.

Anyone with these symptoms should self-isolate immediately and call HealthLine 811 or their community health centre for an evaluation and advice.