The fourth phase of Saskatchewan’s reopening plan is set to launch Monday.
Part one of phase four will allow activities such as child and youth day camps, outdoor pools and splash pads and outdoor sports and activities to open up.
Not all sports are included in the plan. Contact sports are still off-limits, though sports such as soccer, softball and flag football can start Monday.
While outdoor pools will be allowed to open, not all municipalities will open theirs. Residents are advised to check with local authorities regarding availability.
Guidelines released last week detail restrictions such as avoiding interprovincial travel and tournaments, handshakes and high-fives in sports. Guidelines for summer day camps have also been posted. While they mandate that activities allowed must not include anything currently shuttered under the reopening plan, art activities, with precautions, will be allowed.
Art galleries and museums will not open until the second part of the fourth phase. Part two will also include indoor pools, rinks, libraries, movie theatres, casinos and bingo halls. A date for that second part of the phase will be announced next week. Premier Scott Moe hopes to have all of the province’s reopening dates announced by the end of June.
“We are working to get everything reopened as quickly as possible … and as safely as possible so our economy can recover and more people can go back to work,” Moe said.
He also said the reopening plan is important so residents can enjoy summer activities “that mean so much to our quality of life here in Saskatchewan.
“We have avoided the kind of major outbreaks that have occurred in many other places across this nation and around the world.”
Moe said case numbers in the province remain low, thanks to residents for following physical distancing guidelines.
“We still have to remain vigilant as individuals,” he said. “COVID has not disappeared. Case numbers do continue to rise … including in several states in the US.”
Phase four will also see the limit for indoor gatherings increased to 30 where space allows for two metres of physical distancing between participants. Potlucks are discouraged and there should be no shared platters of food or buffet service.
Gatherings should be smaller than 30 if there isn’t enough space to maintain a physical distance of two metres at all times.
That’s quite a large distance, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said.
“Even outdoors, if you space things out, you have to have a large space to have a gathering of 30,” he said.
The date of the launch, June 22, was included with the province’s daily COVID-19 case count update. After seeing a whopping 18 new cases Monday, there was only a single new case reported Tuesday. That case is in the Saskatoon region. Two more people have recovered and the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 has increased to three.
Two patients are receiving inpatient care, one in the north and one in Saskatoon. One person is in intensive care in Saskatoon.
Most of the Monday cases were related to a funeral and wake in Clearwater Dene Nation. The Saskatoon cases were attributed to some out of province travel.
So far, there have been no cases tied to large Black Lives Matter rallies held across the province in the past weeks.
Moe said support is being provided to the Clearwater community as it battles this latest surge in cases.
He said regular updates are being provided in the region on MBC radio. Clearwater has established an 11 p.m. curfew, and groceries are being delivered from La Loche to limit outside travel. Trailers are being provided to help people in crowded living situations self-isolate.
Despite this latest spike in spreading being caused by an event now permitted under the province’s guidelines, Saskatchewan won’t be walking back its announcement expanding the number of people who can attend such events.
Shahab said it’s a matter of following guidelines and taking extra precautions surrounding places where we feel comfortable.
“Reopening of phases — if done properly — does not cause transmission at the restart,” Shahab said.
“But gatherings in familiar surroundings … let our guard down. That’s where transmission continues to happen.”
Shahab added that celebrations of joy or grief tend to lend to people getting close to each other.
“It is important to maintain that distance, especially if people close to us have risk factors,” he said.
“During periods of joy or grief, it is important to maintain that discipline and be considerate of being apart while staying socially connected. What we have seen is that when we are in situations we are more familiar with, we do relax and that’s where transmission continues to happen.”
He stressed that avoiding “super spreader events,” such as the snowmobile rally and curling bonspiel seen in the early stages of the pandemic, will be key going forward.
Clusters of outbreaks will occur, he added. The goal is to minimize them.
Moe said the goal has been to reopen while keeping the curve flat. So far, he said, the province has done that.
“The primary goal has always been to flatten the curve of COVID-19 … not to eliminate the virus. I don’t think that’s a realistic goal,” he said. Flattening the curve and minimizing deaths are more manageable, he added.
“Large pubic gatherings are a challenge. When you combine all of these public health recommendations together, there is an opportunity for large, safe public gatherings. I’m not sure if that was the case with the spread here, but we are confident we’re well into our testing and contact tracing of this event and hope to have it under control relatively quickly.”
Residents are being asked to remember to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as remembering to follow physical distancing rules, that small, infrequent gatherings are better than large, frequent ones and those outdoor gatherings are better than indoor ones.