Lifting mask rule and proof-of-vaccination before spring 2022 would likely spark surge, Sask. doctors warn

·2 min read
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has indicated the restrictions will likely still in place until the end of 2021.  (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has indicated the restrictions will likely still in place until the end of 2021. (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)

There's a very high probability that lifting Saskatchewan's current public indoor masking and proof-of-vaccination restrictions before spring 2022 will lead the province's hospitals to be swamped with COVID-19 patients again, doctors are warning.

The caution came Thursday night during a virtual meeting of Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) physicians. It was an escalation of similar recent messaging from the province's chief medical health officer.

Saskatchewan Health Authority
Saskatchewan Health Authority

Last week, Dr. Saqib Shahab said that while Saskatchewan's vital COVID-19 stats were improving, it would be a mistake to lift the province's current public health measures going into the winter season.

On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe signalled it's likely the restrictions will remain in place to the end of 2021, though an official announcement on that is yet to come. The restrictions are currently set to expire on Nov. 30.

Moe said he had not yet met with Shahab or Health Minister Paul Merriman to discuss an extension.

By Thursday, Shahab appeared confident the measures would be extended.

"We have an indoor mask policy that will continue over December into the holidays," he said. "We know we have proof of vaccination that will continue over December into the holidays."

Saskatchewan Health Authority
Saskatchewan Health Authority

In another slide shared during Thursday's town hall, doctors learned some of the extra surge beds in Battlefords and Prince Albert ICUs are being drawn down in light of declining ICU admission.

On the other hand, while the number of in-province Saskatchewan ICU patients has decreased in recent weeks, the total of COVID and non-COVID ICU patients in the province as of Thursday (92) still remained well above the number of beds the health care system can staff without surging (79), to say nothing of the 11 former Saskatchewan patients who remain in Ontario ICU wards.

That means Saskatchewan's ICU capacity remains in the red zone, as shown in another slide.

Saskatchewan Health Authority
Saskatchewan Health Authority

The town hall slides are typically posted to the SHA's website on Friday morning.

Advice for the vaccinated and unvaccinated

During the town hall, Dr. Johnmark Opondo, a medical health officer with the SHA, laid out a series of guidelines he recommended people follow in the weeks to come.

  • Overall, people should reduce the number of people they come into contact with and their opportunities for exposure to COVID-19, as well as wear a mask indoors when not eating or drinking regardless of their vaccination status.

  • Vaccinated people should only meet with members from one other household.

  • Unvaccinated people should only meet with people outdoors.

  • Vaccinated elderly and immunocompromised people, including those with diabetes and obesity, should meet indoors only with other vaccinated people and always wear a mask indoors no matter what.

Click here or see below for Thursday's full set of town hall slides.

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