After an announcement that it was forthcoming by Chief Medical Health Officer Saqib Shahab, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) alerted individuals travelling to and from, and living in, Prince Albert and area on Wednesday of an increase in COVID-19 illnesses in the community.
“What we are seeing in the northern part of the province, primarily in the PA area right now, is sporadic cases with no links to another known case and some of them have resulted in hospitalizations,” Shahab said during Tuesday’s teleconference.
“What that means is that there is ongoing community transmission.”
As a result of an increased number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Prince Albert area, visitation will be restricted at Victoria Hospital and long-term care homes, including Herb Bassett Home, Pineview Terrace and Mont St. Joseph Home.
This means family members or support people will only be permitted for compassionate reasons. No other visitors are allowed into the facilities at this time and these enhanced restrictions will remain in place at Victoria Hospital and long-term care homes in Prince Albert until further notice. The Saskatchewan Health Authority is asking the public for their support and cooperation in order to contain the spread of the virus.
One exception is compassionate care reasons according to the release. Compassionate care reasons may include, but are not limited to, family or support persons during end-of-life care, major surgery, intensive care/critical care or a care partner aiding in clinical care (at the discretion of the patient’s care provider).
Detailed information about Compassionate Care can be found at saskatchewan.ca/covid19.
Family members and support people who are permitted under these exceptions must be verified and undergo a health screening prior to entering the facility or home. This includes a temperature check and questionnaire. The visitor will be required to perform hand hygiene (hand washing and/or use of hand sanitizer) when entering and leaving the facility or home and when entering and leaving the patient’s or resident’s room. Visitors will be required to wear a medical grade mask while inside the facility or home and potentially additional personal protective equipment if required. Visitors are not permitted to wait in waiting rooms or other common areas.
Under no circumstances should individuals visit if they have respiratory, gastric or flu-like symptoms (e.g., common cold, diarrhea, vomiting) or if you have travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days.
All community, foundation and other public and spiritual gatherings in Victoria Hospital and long-term care homes in Prince Albert remain on hold effective immediately until further notice. Services provided by community volunteers who are 65 years of age or older in non-essential service areas are also suspended.
Another option to visit loved ones in hospital or long term care is virtual visits. The SHAacknowledges the importance of family support to those who are healing within hospitals and residents of long-term care homes. They are asking families and visitors for their cooperation in following these restrictions. Until they are able to safely allow visitors back into our health care facilities and long-term care homes, they encourage residents to consider other ways to stay connected with your family members or friends in our hospitals and long-term care homes, such as phone calls or online means of communication. The SHA encourages families to consider virtual visiting through electronic applications such as FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp. They are asking families and visitors for their co-operation in following these restrictions.
TheSHA is encouraging all provincial residents to seek testing if they are experiencing symptoms and is reminding everyone that testing is available for anyone who currently works outside the home and is being admitted to acute care for more than 24 hours, including expectant mothers and individuals who are immunocompromised. The levels of testing are similar to other areas of the province but they want to see an increase in baseline testing.
The emphasis was also on the popular tourist areas around the city.
“The number of people coming to the beautiful area of Prince Albert and the parks in that area may be lower in terms of travellers coming from within Saskatchewan or other parts of Canada and certainly it would be extremely low or zero in terms of travellers coming and non-Canadians coming from outside of Canada, historically that is a very popular area to spend summer. But we do know that the population does increase over the summer and that just increases transmission risk because when you have a lot of population mixing, not just people from the same small geographic area but people coming in from other parts of Saskatchewan or even Canada it does increase transmission risks,” Shahab said.
The SHA is urging Saskatchewan residents to follow public health measures and personal safety precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, including physical distancing of two metres, frequent hand hygiene and self-isolating if you are not feeling well.
“Again, the best way to prevent COVID is to maintain physical distancing, not go out if you are sick and use a mask if you cannot maintain physical distancing especially if you are indoors in a crowded situation,” Shahab added.
If a resident of Saskatchewan is experiencing symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, headaches, aches and pains, sore throat, chills, runny nose or a loss of sense of taste or smell, contact HealthLine 811, a nurse practitioner or a family physician for advice on whether you should be tested for COVID-19.