As a result of outbreaks at nightclubs in Saskatoon, and a superspreader event at the Full Gospel Outreach in Prince Albert, the numbers of COVID-19 cases have escalated greatly in Saskatchewan in the past few weeks. This past week alone has seen over 370 new cases as opposed to 107 reported recoveries. In his update on Friday, October 23, Dr. Shahab continued to encourage people in the province to remain vigilant and use the knowledge gained in the spring to keep oneself and others in society safe. Be aware he cautioned, of what is happening in and around the community. The exposures may be occurring in the urban settings but then the virus is being spread to rural communities as individuals return home and unwittingly infect others before they realize they are sick. The positive cases being reported still have many links to the Full Gospel Outreach event as third and fourth generations of contacts are identified. The message is the same wash your hands, don’t touch your face, maintain a two metre distance from those not from the same household, wear a mask in places where it is uncertain if the two metre spacing can be maintained, and most importantly stay home if you are not well. These basic preventative safety principles are what helped the province to flatten the curve in the spring and are what is needed again now in the fall to bring the spread back into a less threatening position.
Over the summer as businesses reopened and warm weather beckoned people out of doors, individuals became a bit lax about following the safety measures that had proved so successful just a few short months ago, so now that people and their activities are moving back indoors, society as a whole needs to double down in its efforts to stop COVID-19 from making any more people a dreaded statistic. Dr. Shahab has only altered one of his public health orders, and it is clear by listening to him that he would prefer for people to voluntarily impose their own personal restrictions rather than him having to mandate them. Keep your bubble small, consider who is in that bubble and what each one needs to stay safe, and never lose sight of the importance of knowing who you have been in close contact with and where you have been. Dr. Theresa Tam reminded Canadians over a week ago that everyone needs to remember that every person we encounter is another whole network of contacts. “So, as much as you can, I urge you to reduce encounters with people outside of your consistent, trusted close contacts. I especially urge you to avoid these encounters in crowded and closed settings with limited ventilation. Keeping apart is difficult, but it is what will make us stronger, more resilient and better able to sustain public health efforts through the fall and winter,” Tam said. Dr Shahab supported that when he said Friday, “This is not going to go away, and we need to live with preventing COVID cases surging.”
Dr. Shahab has said that the province is learning from each outbreak it deals with. “We know more about COVID now, about how it behaves, and we need to use that knowledge to keep our businesses open,” he said. Experts across the country agree that another lockdown like we experienced in the spring should be avoided at this point. And on this point Dr. Shahab appears to be in full agreement. The fallout of another lockdown experts say, would be felt not only economically, but medically through more delayed and cancelled procedures which has an overall negative impact on the health of the populace, and mentally as isolation and fear weigh on people’s minds. CBC’s Adam Miller wrote in his column Second Opinion, “Lockdowns are one of many tools a country can use in the face of an infectious disease outbreak, but their effectiveness is dependent on the public’s willingness to tolerate them.”
Michael Osterholm, Director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota says that resistance to public health measures stem from the concept of “pandemic fatigue” but also from “pandemic anger”. There are people who don’t believe the pandemic is real, they believe it is all a hoax, some sort of ploy by governments or others to control as many people as possible. This type of information makes it harder for the average person to act in the best interests of everyone. Dr. Theresa Tam stated in a press conference, when false information is spread — either intentionally or not — it does not help public health officials ensure the public has the information they need to make the right choices. "When you look at a piece of information, ask a number of questions, including exactly where this has come from," said Tam. "Definitely ask yourself this question before you forward the information to someone else."
‘Pandemic fatigue’ has come about as the general public, through the weariness of not seeing an end in sight of this virus, has become more willing to risk the dangers of the virus to see a return to the normal life they had before the pandemic hit. “In parts of the world where the virus is resurging, the outbreaks and a rising sense of apathy are colliding, making for a dangerous combination. Health officials say the growing impatience is a new challenge as they try to slow the latest outbreaks…” (nytimes.com/2020/10/17/us/coronavirus-pandemic-fatigue.html, updated 2020/10/23) With the biggest increases in positive cases linked to the 20-39 age group in Europe as well as here in Canada, experts in Europe are concerned that the virus could soon spread back to those who are more vulnerable. The European Union reports that 15% of new cases are in the 15 to 24 year-old group, a rate three times higher than in April. It is not only the young who are contracting the virus and some countries are being hit worse than others, just as some provinces here are being hit harder than others. In Ireland their contact tracing system has been overwhelmed in the latest surge where the five-day case average has tripled since the beginning of the month, and there are simply no longer enough people to keep the system working. This is not the tale we want to be sharing, and it is incumbent on all of us to do all we can to curtail the spread of this virus. We need to look beyond our borders and take note of what is happening in other jurisdictions and not be naïve enough to think that it can’t happen here. One month ago, the 7-day average new positive case count in Saskatchewan was 10, the average over the 7-day period ending October 24 was 52.
COVID-19 is in every corner of our province. Even if you have not personally encountered it, it is there. Be aware and follow the common sense guidelines that have the approval of health officials around the globe…wash your hands often, cover your mouth/nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing, maintain a safe physical distance from those outside your household and wear a mask in situations where that is not possible, and stay home if you aren’t well.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder