COVID-19 case numbers in Saskatchewan continue to trend up. Saskatchewan reported 40 new cases on Friday and the province said two additional fines have been issued for failure to abide by public health orders — one to a person and one to a corporation.
The province did not identify the person or the company that had been fined.
The province also said a business has been ordered to temporarily close due to having inadequate COVID-19 mitigation measures in place.
A total of 23 of the new cases are linked to close contacts and gatherings, the province said in its update.
As of Friday, a total of 79 COVID-19 cases are now linked to the Prince Albert Full Gospel Outreach Centre outbreak. The province previously fined the centre $14,000 for breaking COVID-19 health guidelines, after an outbreak stemming from church meetings held from Sept. 14 to Oct. 4.
At least 250 contacts have been part of the contact investigation of what the province is calling a "superspreader" event.
The province warns that "superspreader" events are not limited to the people who attended the event itself. The virus has been quickly transmitted in local settings.
Of the new cases, the Saskatoon and Regina zones each reported seven, as did the far northeast zone.
There were eight new cases in the north central zone, six in the far northwest and two in the central east.
The northwest, central west and south central zones each reported one new case.
On Friday the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) released a lengthy list of potential COVID-19 exposure sites in Borden, Île-à-la-Crosse, La Ronge, Lloydminster, Paradise Hill, Regina, Saskatoon, Warman and Yorkton.
Twelve new recoveries from COVID-19 were also reported Friday. To date, a total of 1,946 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.
Of the 2,270 total reported cases in the province so far, 299 are considered active.
Nine people are currently in hospital with the illness, including two people in intensive care — one in Saskatoon and one in Regina. Five of those receiving in-patient care are in the Saskatoon zone and two are the north central zone.
Despite the increased case count in Saskatchewan, the province has not placed further restrictions on group sizes at this time.
Earlier in the week, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab amended the public health order on gathering sizes in homes. As of today, the maximum amount of people allowed at private gatherings in a home is 15, down from 30.
Shahab said there would have to be 60 or more cases per day before further restrictions were added. He did not say exactly what the restrictions would be if the province met that threshold.
Since Monday the province has reported 54 cases in people aged 20 to 39.
"Similar to other jurisdictions in Canada and Europe, we are seeing more cases in that young, active age group which obviously are out and about at work, but also out and about socializing. So this is certainly a trend to watch and really a message to everyone, but especially people aged 15 to 39," Shahab said.
Shahab said young people generally feel more invulnerable to the virus. He said young men are particularly less risk-averse.
"Also, people in their late teens and early 20s are less likely to watch media events like this. Public health is continuing to work to reach out through other social media platforms like TikTok," Shahab said.
"But we also need to make sure that we as parents and friends continue to reach out to young people and have a discussion around COVID and be supportive of public health measures that protect all of us."
Scott Livingstone, CEO of the SHA, said the province is experiencing a small testing backlog and has not yet met its goal of 4,000 COVID-19 tests per day. He said the province is working to increase its testing capacity.
"We haven't consistently met our testing capacity. What are we doing about it? We posted [60 to 70] positions for the lab. We've on-boarded over 50 per cent of them. Our capacity is building daily," Livingstone said.
On Thursday, 2,568 COVID-19 tests were performed in Saskatchewan.
The SHA aims to have a 24-hour turnaround on tests for people that are symptomatic.
"There are things that affect that turnaround time. Particularly how and when those swabs arrive at the lab at the time of day, because there are cutoffs that we use with respect to the testing numbers on a daily basis," Livingstone said.
He said the SHA aims to get tests for those that are asymptomatic out within 72 hours, but has managed to do so between 24 and 48 hours.
Livingstone said the testing environment is changing across the country.
"There's been a couple of tests, point of care tests, that have been approved recently by Health Canada that will expedite testing ... We are currently validating [tests] that don't require lab personnel to run the tests," Livingstone said.
"So we will continue to expand our testing. We should see that being incorporated into our testing strategies across the province over the next few weeks. But certainly before the end of November is the hope."