For the first time since a new spike in cases took place in the southwest and west central part of the province Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Saqib Shahab addressed the issue in a press availability on Tuesday. The province also announced an expansion of the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan earlier in the day.
“While the number of cases in Saskatchewan is still relatively low and quite manageable this should be a reminder to each and every one of us that COVID-19 is a very contagious disease,” Moe said.
As has become a part of each briefing, both Moe and Shahab reminded people to continue with best practices.
“We all have to keep practicing all of the good habits that have helped in controlling the spread so far. I know it is summertime and it has been active for four months now and it seems like an eternity. So it may be tempting for some of us to relax these practices from time to time, don’t,” Moe said.
“We know that COVID is not a seasonal virus…it doesn’t respond to a change in season it does however respond to a change in behavior if we maintain our good practices the number of cases will go down. Without the virus will spread and the number of cases will go up,” Moe said.
“We will continue to protect ourselves and we will continue to protect our families,” he added
The outbreak in the west central and southeast has seen a spike in numbers according to Shahab.
“We in the last four days have had 38 new cases reported, two in the far north, two in the north, 15 in the central part of Saskatchewan, mostly the center west, eight in Saskatoon, 11 in the south. And we have had cases in all categories, travelers from other provinces, other travelers, community contacts and a few on which the investigations are happening and some where there is no known exposures,” Shahab said.
The province’s effective reproductive number has also gone up, according to Shahab, while a part of the province that was a concern isn’t any more.
“We obviously monitor our effective reproductive number so similar to when we had an increase in transfer in the northwest our effective reproductive number for Saskatchewan overall is 2.29 and this is primarily because of the real increase in cases in the southwest and central west part of the province. For the north now it is again under one,” Shahab said.
The reproductive number is the average of how many people are infected by each positive case. A number over one means the virus spread is growing, as each case infects more than one other. A number less than one means the virus is shrinking. The goal is to keep that number under one.
“We have to appreciate that with intense efforts, with community leadership an increase in testing and increased case contact investigation you always see an increase in cases, that may be concerning but that is absolutely essential for public health to work with communities to break the chains of transmission,” he said.
Shahab gave credit and showed gratitude to the leadership in northern communities for addressing a challenging outbreak, Shahab explained that the sporadic outbreaks in the southwest and west central are already seeing increases in cases recovering.
“So far we have not seen transmission from those recent announcements but it is just necessary because if you have been to these businesses you may have to be aware for a couple of weeks and self monitor and seek testing if you are unwell but that applies to everyone in any case and it really should not impact any of those businesses and similarly some of the colonies and communal living settings where there have been cases,”
He explained that the increase in cases has been due to the collaboration with communities.
“ And those settings do need to do that to identify asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases so that individuals who are positive or who are contacts isolate and that is the only way you can get ahead of the outbreak in a timely way and get back to almost normal operations,” he said.
He said officials were encouraged to note that shopping seems to be a fairly low-risk activity. At least three cases of COVID-19 had been traced to restaurant or bar settings. Shahab explained that123 from the South, 87 from the Regina area and 82 from the Central region.
“I think this is the new normal for us. We will see the clusters of outbreaks, we will see the small sporadic, we need to overcome them quickly. But I think over the next little while we need to just beware, we need to just practice what we have been doing so far really well, physical distancing, not going out to an event even if there is a lot of peer pressure which can happen,” Shahab said.
Saskatchewan reported eight new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Tuesday.
New positive tests are spread about the province with three in the south, two in the far north and central and one in Saskatoon.
Of the 970 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 142 are considered active a decrease of three from yesterday.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 remains at 15 in the province.
The recovered number has gone up by 11 to 813.
There are 12 people in hospital with illnesses related to COVID-19, an increase of two from Monday.
Nine individuals are receiving inpatient care in the hospital; seven in Saskatoon, one in the south and one in the north.
Three people, one in the south and two in Saskatoon, are listed in intensive care.
The total number of cases is 970. Of those 342 of the cases are from the far north, 212 are from the Saskatoon area, 124 are from the north, 123 are from the south, 87 are from the Regina area and 82 from the central region.
There are currently 58 cases who are health care workers; however, the source of the infections is not related to their work environments in all instances.
Of the 970 cases in the province: 187 cases are related to travel, 528 are community contacts, which includes mass gatherings, 168 have no known exposures and 87 are under investigation by local public health.
The age breakdown shows 133 cases involve people 19 years of age and under, 333 cases are in the 20-39 age range, 304 are in the 40-59 age range, 168 are in the 60-79 age range and 32 are in the 80-plus range.
The gender breakdown shows 51 per cent of the cases being females and 49 per cent being males.
As of July 21, 82,943 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province an increase of 733 over yesterday.
As of July 19 when other provincial and national numbers were available from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Saskatchewan’s per capita rate was 61,413 people tested per million population. The national rate was 95,071 people tested per million population
Province releases guidelines for additional activities in Phase 4
Saskatchewan continues to progress through Phase 4 of the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan. Additional activities and businesses are being reopened in a measured, careful manner as part of the plan to re-open the provincial economy.
“Today we are announcing the restart of a couple more activities, garage sales, yard sales, door to door canvassing can begin again,” Moe said.
“Just like everything these activities are going to look a bit different,” he added.
Starting July 21, modifications come into effect for: Drive-in theatres: reducing distance between vehicles to two metres, down from five metres, retail guidelines, libraries and places of worship: reducing the length of time that returned or donated items must be held to 24 hours, down from 72 hours, fitness facilities: permitting 24-hour access to fitness facilities, and ensuring registration of guests to facilitate contact tracing, if required and campgrounds where laundry facilities are now able to open following new guidelines for safe operation.
Also on July 21, the following activities will be reopened, with operating guidelines outlined in the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan:
Yard and Garage Sales
All individuals must observe gathering sizes outlined in the current Public Health Order and ensure that physical distancing can be maintained. Guidelines include heightened sanitation, signage that encourages distancing, and advice around payment options. Sales must be held by a single household—group events are not permitted at this time.
Door-to-door Canvassing and Sales
Physical distancing is to be maintained when visiting a residence and between volunteers/staff. Guidelines include frequent hand hygiene and no sharing of common materials including pens, pencils and promotional materials.
Saskatchewan residents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the guidelines and follow recommendations to ensure the province can continue to re-open in a safe manner without a significant increase in the transmission of COVID-19.