Moe: Sask. is flattening the COVID-19 curve, but ‘we cannot feel safe’ yet

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. (Herald file photo)

Updated as of 6:28 p.m., Friday, April 3.

Saskatchewan now has a total of 220 cases of COVID-19; however, the number of recoveries from the virus continues to grow.

On Friday, the province saw a spike of 14 cases. There’s also been 12 recoveries in the past day, bringing that total to 48.

“This means that what we are doing here in Saskatchewan appears to be working, but at the same time, we cannot feel safe and we for certain cannot be complacent,” said Premier Scott Moe.

“I don’t know if we can avoid the kinds of outbreaks that we are seeing in other places, but we have a chance. We have a chance if we continue to follow the rules.”

Heading into the weekend—when you may be tempted to relax the restrictions—Moe urged against it. He reminded residents to continue practicing physical distancing, washing your hands and avoiding unnecessary travel. 

“People may be getting tired of hearing me say these things, but I’m going to keep doing it. I’d rather people be sick of listening to me than be sick with COVID-19,” he said.

Prince Albert’s region, the north, is now at 42 cases with 14 recoveries so far. The far north remains at three cases, two of which have recovered.

Of the 220 cases, 102 are linked to travel and 52 to community contacts. Ten have no known exposures, and 56 are still being investigated by public health.

Six of the cases are in people 19 years old and under, with 100 in the 20-44 age range, 79 in the 45-64 age range and 35 are 65 years old and over.

To date, 12,112 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province. Four confirmed cases have been added to Saskatchewan’s total that were tested outside of the province over the last few weeks.

Shahab: Easier to release more information as numbers grow

The provincial government is now releasing the areas in which deaths related to COVID-19 occur.

Saskatchewan has had three deaths related to the virus so far. On Monday, the province announced its first two deaths, followed by a third on Wednesday.

Those three deaths occurred in the north, central and Saskatoon areas.

“As the numbers increase, that does become easier to do,” said Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab. 

But he and Moe remain firm that releasing further information could be “dangerous” if people don’t follow prevention measures when there’s no cases within their city, town or municipality.

“There’s no difference in the virus in terms of if a death happens or someone gets a mild illness, the virus is actually exactly the same and the outcome actually is determined by a variety of factors: age, underlying health conditions,” said Shahab.

“There’s no part of the province that one can say ‘Okay, I don’t have to practice hand washing, physical distancing.”

Moe said he knows residents are asking for more information, and would release it in the future as cases increase under the advice of Shahab.

SHA care home employees to be screened for temperature and COVID-19 symptoms before shifts

One of the province’s new cases is an employee at an Eden Care assisted living facility in Regina, which has sparked the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to implement further measures in its care homes.

These measures mean all employees will have to get their temperature checked and be screened for symptoms before each shift. Independent care homes are expected to do the same.

“We must remain vigilant in our efforts to reduce the risk to these facilities and the residents within,” said Moe.

Outbreaks have occurred in seniors facilities in Quebec and Ontario, causing several deaths. Moe said the government is keeping an eye on these outbreaks, and acting quickly to prevent seeing Saskatchewan in a similar situation.

A news release said the facility in Regina is closed to admissions, discharges and transfers. Residents who have been in close contact with the employee will be isolated and monitored twice a day for the next two weeks.

Trump direction for 3M to cease PPE shipments to Canada ‘reckless’ and a ‘betrayal,’ says Moe

On Friday, United States President Donald Trump ordered Minnesota-based manufacturer 3M to halt N95 mask shipments to Canada.

The state of personal protective equipment (PPE)—which includes masks, gowns and gloves—has been a regular topic of discussion in the Government of Saskatchewan’s daily COVID-19 updates.

“The availability around personal protective equipment is a discussion that is more urgent today after the reckless direction of the Trump administration,” said Moe on Friday.

“This decision is nothing short of a betrayal of our two great nations shared history of working together in times of need,” he emphasized, “and in this time of a pandemic, it is even more important that our nations strengthen the resolve to work together to fight this unseen enemy, this enemy we call COVID-19.”

Moe called on the Trump administration to reverse the decision.

According to a 3M statement, the administration invoked the Defense Production Act to require the company to prioritize orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for N95 respirators.

3M noted there are “significant humanitarian implications” of ceasing the masks to health care workers in Canada and Latin America.

Nevertheless, SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said currently the province doesn’t have a shortage of PPE.

“We’re not burning through PPE like you’ve seen in other jurisdictions that are experiencing different peaks in demands,” he said.

“We share those concerns about the future.”