6 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more recoveries in Sask. on Thursday

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

Updated as of 4:14 p.m., Thursday, April 30.

The provincial government reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with four more recoveries.

Three of the new cases are in Lloydminster—On Wednesday, the province announced a cluster of cases stemming from the city’s hospital. Two of the new cases are in the Saskatoon area and one is in La Loche.

Eighty-eight of the province’s 389 total cases are considered active.

Currently, there are 10 people in hospital with conditions related to COVID-19. Seven are receiving inpatient care, four in Lloydminster and three in Saskatoon, and an additional three patients in Saskatoon are receiving intensive care.

To date, 29,642 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province.

Province expands child care ahead of Re-Open Sask. Plan

The provincial government announced on Thursday that anyone currently working or returning to work in phases one and two of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan will have access to licensed child care services in schools.

Phase one is set to begin on Monday, with phase two scheduled to start two weeks later on May 19.

According to a news release, more than 2,100 spaces at school-based child care facilities continue to support pandemic response workers despite the closure of schools last month. There is now the capacity to expand the service to other workers.

“As we move to gradually re-open Saskatchewan, we know that parents, caregivers and families returning to work will need child care support, and we are helping them by ensuring their children are safe and well cared for,” said Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant in the release.

The child care centres will continue to operate under advice from Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab. They’re limited to a maximum of eight children in one room and must follow increased sanitation measures.

Government announces temporary wage supplement for lower income essential workers

Workers helping Saskatchewan’s vulnerable population throughout the COVID-19 pandemic can soon access a temporary wage supplement.

The new supplement consists of a flat $400 per month for up to 16 weeks for each eligible worker.

It will be cost-shared with the federal government totalling about $56 million. According to Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, just under $3 million comes from the Government of Saskatchewan.

You’re eligible if you earn less than $2,500 a month and are employed at a senior care facility, including private care homes and home care, a licensed child care facility, a group home run by a community-based organization or an emergency or transition shelter. This includes caregivers, cooks and cleaners, both full and part-time.

“Family members…will come in and in the case of an adult or child with disabilities, they will take them out for the afternoon,” said Harpauer.

“They’re no longer allowed visitors and so it is all on the workers within those facilities and that is also the area where you may see some of your lower income.”

The province expects the supplement will apply to about 35,000 people.

The application will be outlined in the coming days.

All non-critical travel now restricted in the north

The province has announced further supports and travel restrictions for northern Saskatchewan to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

At the request of northern leaders to Minister of Government Relations Lori Carr, Shahab has updated the public health order restricting non-critical travel for the Northern Saskatchewan Administrative District (NSAD).

Moe emphasized the importance of the restrictions in northwestern communities, including La Loche.

“This is one area of Saskatchewan where if you can stay at home, not just in your community, but at home, we’re asking you to do so. It works in controlling this virus when we limit movement of people,” he said.

Northern residents are ordered to remain in their communities, with the exception of critical activities such as getting groceries and attending medical appointments. Travel related to essential services is still permitted.

The NSAD covers almost half of the province, but contains less than four per cent of the provincial population. According to a news release, case-by-case exemptions to the order were evaluated upon request.

Currently, La Ronge and Stony Rapids have been granted exemptions—meaning travel to and from these communities is allowed, but you can’t stop in any others.

The provincial government is also providing $370,000 in immediate funding in hopes of reducing the spread of the virus in the far north.

Through the Ministry of Government Relations, $350,000 will go to the province’s northern communities association, New North. The money will help establish, staff and maintain community checkpoints as part of the updated public health order.

La Loche will receive the remaining $20,000. The funds will be used to support local public safety, food security and educational initiatives encouraging physical distancing and self-isolation.

Additionally, amendments to the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment (SSBEP) program, which was announced on Apr. 9, will benefit northern outfitters and businesses operating in provincial parks.

These businesses are eligible for grants of up to $5,000. The government is also waiving lease fees for outfitters for the 2020 season.