As of Friday November 6, mask use will be mandatory in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina in all indoor places and private gatherings in homes will be reduced to only 10 people. These measures, Premier Moe stated in the press conference on November 3rd will be in effect for 28 days at which time they will be reviewed. While masks provide an extra layer of protection they will not “solve everything’ the Premier cautioned, much of the recent spread can be attributed he said, to transmission in homes where people are comfortable and perhaps let their guard down. Mask use does not replace good physical distancing, it is just another part of the process to stop the spread of COVID-19. The masking policy levels the playing field, leaving no need to second guess about whether it is necessary or not to don a mask before entering a business. Many businesses have had their employees wearing masks to protect the buying public, now it is time to reciprocate and protect the businesses. The onus is not on the business owner to enforce the orders, but it will take some of the pressure off those businesses who have had masking policies in place already. When asked if there would be enforcement measure taken especially with the growing numbers of ‘anti-maskers’, both men spoke of their belief that people in general will comply with the new public health orders. Many people are already taking the precaution of wearing a mask and neither the Premier nor Dr. Shahab expects to have to ‘police’ the masking orders. Other jurisdictions have seen that mask use increased once mandatory orders were put in place and they expect the same will occur in Saskatchewan with no need to have “covid-cops” enforcing the order.
We have reduced our case numbers in the province before and it is important that we do so again, “because it is how we will continue to keep our businesses open, our schools open, our public services open, and it is how we can reduce the potential pressure in our hospitals. And most importantly it is how we will all save lives,” the Premier said. We all have a responsibility to protect one another he affirmed and “we need to step it up again Saskatchewan.” Dr. Shahab has said since the spring that he personally recommends that everyone wear a mask when they are indoors where it is unpredictable whether or not physical distancing is possible, and if there is a high level of compliance with the new orders we may well see the numbers of new cases start to decline in a week or two. It is important to remember that the positive cases seen now are a result of transmissions that happened a week to two weeks ago. Premier Moe stated that we in the province are at a fork-in-the-road. Today we are sitting roughly where Manitoba was two weeks or so ago, the actions of the people in the province today will determine where the numbers will be in two weeks time. Is this the second wave? Numbers are up to the highest we have seen, the so-called ‘waves’ are, Dr Shahab said, interpretations of a situation, and our situation is different from what other jurisdictions have seen. In the spring there were peaks and valleys in the transmission numbers, while still maintaining low overall numbers. Now with sustained increases, and slightly different patterns of transmissions Dr. Shahab says that he would argue that we are experiencing our first ‘true’ wave, and this is our true test in turning things around. Whether one agrees with Dr. Shahab or not, the reality is currently there are approximately 800 active cases in the province and that is something that only the residents of Saskatchewan can do something about.
On Tuesday Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam also spoke about mask use. Besides wearing well-fitted masks that cover the nose, mouth, and the chin without leaving any gaps, the recommendation since June from the World Health Organization has been that non-medical masks should be made of three layers of fabric. The outer and inner layer should be of tightly woven material like cotton or linen and a third middle layer should be a filter layer made of material such as non-woven polypropylene fabric. Dr. Tam had previously recommended the two layer mask, but now with winter approaching and Canadian life moving more indoors for the next number of months, her recommendations have changed to reflect those of the WHO stating, “This is and additional recommendation just to add another layer of protection. The science of masks has really accelerated during this particular pandemic. So we’re just learning again as we go.”
This morning CBC ran a story of Dr. Owen Mooney, an internal medicine specialist, working in St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg. Dr. Mooney tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday after being on call 24/7 for the past week treating and admitting patients to the hospital. He can’t remember any breaches in his PPE, but the avid runner is more sick than his wife has ever seen him. “Sitting up takes effort. Productive cough. Muscle aches. Sore throat. My taste and smell are gone. And this happened within a period of six to eight hours,” he said to the CBC. His wife, who is waiting for her test results and is showing symptoms had this to say, “Pop those bubbles. If you can make a mental list right now of how many people you would have to call and it’s big, those aren’t easy calls to make….Just take it seriously.” Dr. Mooney added, “Wash your hands, social distance, mask when outside. It’s imperative we do these things now. We’re unfortunately only at the beginning of this exponential growth and I worry what the next two weeks will bring.”
We at the Wakaw Recorder, have constructed a calendar to make it easier to keep track of where we are at in regards to the daily number of new cases, the number of active cases province wide, the number of cases that have no known origin, and the number of patients receiving care in ICU out of the total number in hospital. In the flood of numbers that come on a daily basis it can be easy to lose track of the large picture and as the active cases in both Manitoba and Alberta continue to rise, it will be helpful to see the trend in our own province.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder