Sask. doctors call for “more aggressive” measures to address COVID-19

The province pointed to lowering case and hospitalization rates as a sign that current public safety measures are working

The Medical Health Officers of Saskatchewan (MHO) demanded a “more aggressive” set of measures to quickly reduce community transmission of COVID-19 in a letter to Health Minister Paul Merriman that was signed by 21 prominent Saskatchewan doctors in October. 

“The Medical Health Officers of Saskatchewan recommend that government messages clearly communicate the seriousness of the current situation,” the doctors wrote. 

“The Saskatchewan Health Authority and Ministry of Health need to agree on how to best report on this information.”

Further recommendations in the letter include moving back gathering restrictions to a similar stage as step one in Saskatchewan’s reopening plan.

The MHO argued in its letter that proof of vaccination should be required in more venues. 

“More locations should consider not accepting proof of a negative test as an option for entry,” the MHO wrote. 

“A negative test should not be a substitute for vaccination while we try to reduce community transmission as they can miss people with lower levels of viral shedding.”

Executive council spokesperson Matthew Glover said in a written statement that the province began implementing a series of new initiatives to help bolster Saskatchewan’s health care system and reduce COVID-19 transmission in September. 

“This included mandatory indoor masking guidelines and proof of vaccination or negative test requirements for many indoor public venues. We are now seeing the results of those increased public safety measures in the form of lowering case and hospitalization rates,” Glover wrote.

“Vaccination continues to be the most effective long-term tool for reducing hospitalizations and this government has made every effort for the COVID-19 vaccine to be readily available to residents across the province.”

The doctors also pointed to recommendations in an August 26 letter that the MHO says have not yet been adopted that “would still have an impact.”

Testing and contact tracing capacity has not been able to keep up with demand, and has been less effective given the number of contacts people have, they argued.   

“Public reporting of COVID-19 information has been better with discussion of modeling data, and reporting of cases and hospitalizations by immunization status,” the doctors wrote.

“More detailed reporting of our cases and progress on immunization uptake in various age groups needs to happen at small-area geography, communities and neighbourhoods in our larger cities for people to understand where we need to improve.”

The doctors also asked for better access to linked data so that experts can give better advice to public health teams —  including more community-specific immunization rates.

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