Eased outdoor sports restrictions to begin Sunday in the province

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Wyatt Mastracjuk of the Sturgis Trojans tries to slow Braden Shewchuk of the Prince Albert Attack Under-15 team at Max Clunie Field last June.

Over the past two days the province has made a number of announcements around the reopening plan. On Tuesday they announced public health measures around outdoor sporting activities will be eased as part of Step One set to commence on Sunday, May 30 instead of in Step Two which is set to begin June 20.

The start of Step Two was announced by the province on Monday.

During a press conference on Tuesday Premier Scott Moe gave credit to the success so far in vaccine delivery with 607,000 people receiving their first dose and 58,000 people fully vaccinated with both doses.

“Our seven day average in the province is now 139, that is down by more than half of where we were at the peak of the third wave of 286 on April 15. In fact it is down about 26 per cent in the last week alone and very much a positive. Vaccines are making a huge difference in our province and that’s why we are confident as we move forward with our reopening roadmap as we continue to reach the vaccination targets that are set out before us,” Moe said.

Step Two is now scheduled to begin on Sunday, June 20, which is three weeks after Step One begins on Sunday, May 30.

“So this means that Step Two will begin on June 20. And that also happens to be the first day of summer and I think it is going to be a great summer in Saskatchewan, as more people continue to get vaccinated and things start to get back to normal in our great province,” Moe said.

The adjustment to the Re-Opening Roadmap is being made recognizing the lowered risk of transmission in outdoor settings along with the successful uptake in Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination effort in reducing the transmission of the virus.

“One part of a great Saskatchewan summer is that all of the outdoor sports and the sports leagues that we have in this province, softball, baseball, football, soccer and such and I was very happy to announce earlier this morning that those outdoor sports will now move from step two into step one which means they can begin this Sunday,” Moe said.

“The main reason we are able to do this is because so many Saskatchewan residents have done their part, they went out and they have gotten vaccinated and in doing so they are reducing the spread of COVID in our communities,” Moe said.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab emphasized all of the hard work that everyone has done following public health measures to get the numbers down and that test positivity has dropped to around five per cent.

“We have done well and our testing rates remain high. So a lot of these public health measures are being relaxed in step one and later in step two,” he said.

“Our vaccine uptake has been fantastic, more and more people are protected with one dose and beginning with the second dose but we do have a ways to go to make sure we can finish.”

Moe is not concerned about any age group or that a wall has been hit and the uptake is strong. An advertising program and tying the reopening plan to vaccinations are seen by Moe as a driver in the success of the vaccination program.

Shahab noted the convenience of the vaccine program and people are savvy about obtaining vaccines through any means necessary.
Beginning May 30 competition and game play for outdoor team sports can proceed with the following requirements:

Participants may not compete if they are feeling unwell. Players and coaches should be encouraged to screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to arriving to practice and play using the self-assessment tool. League play is allowed to resume however, tournaments are not permitted at this time. This will be revisited in Step Two of the reopening plan. There will be no interprovincial travel. Teams competing in regional interprovincial leagues need to contact the Business Response Team prior to beginning play. Capacity must be in compliance with the public health order for public outdoor gatherings for each playing surface or game area. Public outdoor gatherings are set to expand to a limit of 150 people on May 30 as part of the reopening plan. Common areas, such as those where there are multiple playing surfaces, must also be in compliance with gathering limits in the public health order.

Individual and protective equipment should not be shared. When helmets and bats or other equipment are shared, cleaning and disinfecting must occur between each use. Commonly touched equipment used for game play (e.g. game ball, football) is routinely replaced or disinfected during the course of practice or play. Coaches, officials, umpires, referees and players who are not on the field are not required to wear masks outdoors under the public health order. However, masks may be worn if they are more comfortable with that layer of protection and no shaking hands, high-fives, etc.

Spectators not from the same household should maintain two metres of physical distancing and spectators must remain in designated areas. Masks are not required to be worn outdoors under the public health order, but they may be worn if spectators are more comfortable with that layer of protection. Hand sanitizer approved by Health Canada (DIN or NPN) or soap and water handwashing stations should be available for participants and spectators. As well there is no sharing of water bottles. Public washrooms, when available, are cleaned and disinfected regularly, and soap and water or hand sanitizer is available. Contact information of the coaches, officials and players should be recorded by the home team and maintained in order to assist with contact tracing for 30 days in the case of a confirmed case of COVID-19.

According to Moe the change was partially because outdoor activities are safer but also the sacrifices of youth, who is anyone under 30.

“And they haven’t had the opportunity for, going into their second year, to play competitive sports whether it be softball, soccer, football, whatever that might be. And most certainly it’s among the highest priority to reduce the impacts of this pandemic on our youth, on our children. And by request of many many people and conversations that I have had as well as multiple public health officials have had as well we felt it was safe to move with respect to this at this time of year,” Moe said.