COVID-19 recoveries continue to outnumber new cases, public health order amended to better protect seniors

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

Recoveries from COVID-19 continued to outpace new cases Friday as the number of active cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus continues to plummet.

As of Friday, April 17, Saskatchewan had one new case and one new presumptive case of COVID-19, bringing its total to 307 reported cases. Nine more people have recovered bringing the provincial total to 228. Seventy-five of the 307 cases are considered active.

Six people are in the hospital. Five are receiving inpatient care and one person is in the ICU.

Of the province’s cases, 133 are related to travel, 129 are community contacts or linked to mass gatherings, 29 have no known exposures and 16 are under investigation by local public health.

There have been no additional deaths from COVID-19. The provincial total remains at four.

Saskatchewan announced the age groups it includes in reports have been updated to better align with national data.

Twenty-three cases involve people 19 or younger, 110 are int he 20-39 age range, 105 in the 40-59 age range, 62 are aged 60-79 and seven are in the 80-plus range.

A total of 22,207 tests have been performed in the province. Some people have been tested more than once. Saskatchewan has the second-highest rate of testing per capita among provinces.

As of Friday, the Chief Medical Health Officer’s public health order was updated. As of April 28, long-term care and personal care homes must make sure that each staff member works in only one facility.

Care homes can seek approval from a medical health officer to allow staff members to work in more than one facility if they are unable to keep adequate staffing levels as a result of complying with the order.

The public health order also now includes personal care homes and formalizes existing requirements for long-term care and affiliate care homes.

All staff members must undergo a health screening prior to entering the facility, including a temperature check. They must all wear, at minimum, a procedural/surgical mask. Additional PPE might be required to perform care or procedures, and those guidelines must be followed.

Those measures also apply to Saskatchewan Cancer Agency facilities and staff.

The continuous masking policy and transition to single-site employment in acute and long-term care were praised by CUPE, which has been calling for such measures for weeks.

“This move puts in place protections for the most at risk demographic: long term care residents,” the union, which represents care home workers, wrote in a press release.

They called for a masking policy that ensures it’s implemented across the health care sector and in all community-based services.

CUPE Local 5430 negotiated a letter of understanding (LOU) preventing workers from working in multiple facilities while maintaining their guaranteed hours, creates a labour pool for redeployment to respond to health care needs with clearly-established parameters, ensures no new layoffs for the duration of the agreement, protect employers redeployed from incurring expenses and ensures training and orientation to the required PPE for redeployed employees.

“We have seen a significant rise in precarious work in our health care system. Many of our members are forced to work multiple jobs, across jurisdictions, to cobble together full-time equivalency work,” said Sandra Seitz, president of Local 5430.

“This LOU will offer some protections to our members who are facing changes in the work environment from COVID-19.”