There was a series of COVID-19 related events over the weekend in Yorkton. This led to the declaration of an outbreak at Yorkton Regional High School, Pumphouse Athletic Club and Yorkton Regional Health Centre on Monday. In an impromptu press availability on Monday afternoon, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab explained that because the cases are linked to one event, it is possible to get control of the situation.
“Many of the cases … in Yorkton are linked to a private business with secondary linkages to a high school and a healthcare facility. Again, while our case numbers are higher than usual I think the positive thing is that they are linked to defined exposure events and transmission chains,” Shahab said.
The SHA has issued public safety alerts regarding the outbreaks in Yorkton, and will continue to do so based on any potential risk to the general public.
On Saturday, the SHA announced that it is working with a Yorkton business and the Good Spirit School Division to investigate a cluster of students who have tested positive in the Yorkton Regional High School. While the investigations are ongoing, at this time there is no indication that transmission happened within the school setting.
“We will likely see more cases in Yorkton because now they are entering active case contacts finding and targeting testing for people who may have been close contacts to the three ongoing interlinked investigations,” Shahab said.
According to Shahab, most of the cases provincially are linked to defined transmission events such as the ones in Yorkton and the Brandt Industries outbreak in Saskatoon.
“We do see about 10 to 15 per cent of our overall active cases have no defined source of exposure. So we always have to remember that these kinds of outbreaks or clusters can crop up anywhere in Saskatchewan so we definitely need to continue to practice all of the things we have been doing throughout the pandemic. Hand washing, not going out if you are unwell, maintaining physical distancing and increasingly in public places wearing a mask when you are indoors,” Shahab said.
During the day on Monday it was also announced that the RCMP detachment in Yorkton is closed to the public after a positive case.
“It is a rapidly evolving investigation with up to 100 contacts so far which may continue to grow,” Shahab said.
To prevent restrictions coming into place in Yorkton, Shahab explained that the priority at this point is to complete contact case investigations linked to the three related exposure events. By intervening in this way, they hope to prevent further transmission chains.
“The case count will go up for a week or two like you saw in Saskatoon but ultimately will level off to a degree. Beyond that, over the last two weeks, what we have seen is that two weeks ago out of the 109 active cases 10 per cent had no known source of exposure. Last week out of the 125 active cases 15 per cent had no known source of exposure. So that is a metric to watch. As long as we can identify transmission chains we don’t need to put in broader public health measures.”
Shahab confirmed there was a surge in testing in the Yorkton area.
“If these measures fail to address the case numbers than further specific interventions may have to be considered as they are being considered in other provinces,” Shahab said.
“I think we have done very well over the last seven months and most of us are very knowledgeable about how to comply with guidelines at the grocery store or restaurant or any other public place. We need to continue to pay attention to those simple principles that keep us safe and keep others safe,” he added.
Due to the increased number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Yorkton, visitation will be limited in the Yorkton Regional Health Centre and the Yorkton and District Nursing Home
SHA exposure notices for several businesses in Yorkton and Regina have been tied to the high school outbreak.
The businesses in Yorkton include the Walmart on Hamilton Road on Sept. 14 from 9:10 to 10:30 a.m., Sept. 16 from 9:10 to 9:40 a.m., Sept. 18, from 9:10 to 9:50 a.m. and Sept. 22, 2020, from 9:15 to 10:30 a.m. and the Giant Tiger on Broadway Avenue on Sept. 17 from 9:15 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.
The two Regina businesses connected were the Walmart on Prince of Wales Drive on Sept. 19 from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and the Safeway on 13th Avenue on Sept. 24 from 10:30 a.m. until 11 a.m.
Anyone who was at these locations during this time should self-monitor for 14 days. If you were at these locations and have or had any symptoms of COVID-19, the SHA advises people to self-isolate immediately and call 811 to arrange testing. Symptoms include cold and flu-like symptoms, muscle/joint pain, dizziness, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty feeding for children, loss of sense of taste or smell, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
Shahab reminded people that the new guidelines for fall and activities like Halloween and Thanksgiving were released on Friday.
“We did publish our fall guidance and I think this is the time to pay attention to our close household contacts and we need to make sure that people who we meet on a regular basis are the same consistent group of family and friends,” he said.