COVID-19: 7 new cases, 12 more recoveries in Sask.

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

Saskatchewan once again saw more recoveries than new cases of COVID-19 in a day—on Thursday, the province reported seven new cases and 12 more recoveries.

The total number of cases of the virus is now at 278. Only 160 of those are considered active, meaning those who have not recovered yet or passed away.

The number of active cases is down from 165 on Wednesday.

The province’s total recoveries continues to climb, reaching 115 on Thursday.

Currently, there are eight people in hospital. Six are receiving inpatient care, four in Saskatoon and two in Regina, and one more is in intensive care in each of those cities.

“Our curve remains flat,” said Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, saying these numbers have improved or remained unchanged since Wednesday.

The Government of Saskatchewan said 122 cases are linked to travel and 96 to community contacts. Twenty have unknown exposures and 40 are still under investigation by local public health.

Twenty-seven cases are in health care workers, although their exposures to the virus may not have been at work.

Fifteen cases involve people 19 years of age and under, 120 cases are in the 20-44 age range, 95 are in the 45-64 age range and 48 are in the 65-plus range.

Fifty-four per cent of the cases are in males and 46 per cent are in females.

The province has seen three deaths related to COVID-19.

To date, 16,672 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province. This includes 1,051 tests conducted in the past day, which is the highest number of tests conducted in a day so far.

“We will continue to ramp up testing and contact tracing with a target of processing over 1,500 tests per day the end of this month. High levels of testing and contact tracing are key to reducing the spread both now and in the weeks ahead,” said Premier Scott Moe.

$50M program to support Sask. businesses

Small and medium-sized businesses across the province will soon receive funds through the new Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment (SSBEP).

This $50 million program will help businesses that have been forced to temporarily close or significantly cut down operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grants are based on 15 per cent of a business’ monthly sales revenue to a maximum of $5,000.

To be eligible for the one-time grant, they must have been fully operational on Feb. 29 of this year, have less than 500 employees and commit to reopening operations following the cancellation of the COVID-19 public health order.

“I know this will not address all of the challenges that you are facing,” Moe told Saskatchewan businesses on Thursday.

“But you should know this: We are in this together and our government will continue to stand with you throughout this time.”

The provincial government said it will be requesting that the federal government exempt the SSBEP from business income for tax purposes.

Labour force numbers released by Statistics Canada on Thursday show the province lost 21,000 jobs in March compared to February. The unemployment rate rose to 7.3 per cent.

These numbers were compiled in the early days of the COVID-19 spread in the province, said Moe.

“I expect that we will see even more significant job losses in the month of April.”

Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison said the ministry considered two options for how businesses can use the money.

Pictured is Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison. (Screenshot)

“We did look at options whether to address very specifically elements of fixed overhead or whether to take a more flexible and broader approach that would give businesses the opportunity to deploy those resources in the way that they felt would best support their businesses, and we opted for the latter approach,” he said.

He said it wanted to move funding forward as quickly as possible, and that it will start accepting applications on Monday.

Province provides emergency aid for post-secondary students

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Advanced Education announced on Thursday that it’s providing up to $1.5 million to post-secondary students impacted by the pandemic.

In a news release, the ministry said the emergency aid will help students with limited financial supports whose studies and employment has been disrupted. The amount of money allocated to each student will depend of their circumstances.

“These resources will help quickly address some of their more pressing needs,” said Advanced Education Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor.

Money will be available to both domestic and international students through one-time bursaries.

“We recognize the need for urgent supports to help vulnerable students, including those from northern, remote and Indigenous communities, as well as international students unable to return home,” said Beaudry-Mellor.

“It is critical that we work with our institutions to help students who have nowhere else to turn.”

Bursaries will be available from Apr. 1 to Sept. 30. Eligibility requirements and application details will be available through each post-secondary institution within the next seven to 10 days.

Adjustments may be made depending on assistance from the federal government.