One day after the new restrictions in the province came into effect, Premier Moe and Dr. Shahab jointly announced that effective Thursday, November 19 at 12:01 am masking at all indoor spaces will be mandatory province wide and will remain in effect until December 17 at which time the situation will be reviewed. No visitation will be permitted at long-term care facilities nor personal care homes except for compassionate reasons. Allowing COVID into our care centres is worse than not allowing visitors, Premier Moe stated. Indoor private gatherings have been further reduced from 10 people to 5 and this includes all buildings on private property. If your immediate family is five or greater no additional visitors are permitted and gatherings of any size outside of your immediate family are being strongly discouraged. Stay in close contact with family members for the next four weeks over social media. The Premier strongly encouraged people to restrict contact with people and family members outside of their immediate household. Any private gathering of more than 5 people must occur in a public venue like a restaurant. The guidelines for outdoor private gatherings remain unchanged. It is highly recommended that people work from home as much as possible and those already doing so should continue. The Ministry of Health will consult with members of the hospitality industry, athletic organizations and gyms, and faith leaders on improving and enhancing guidelines to ensure that the best efforts can be carried out to mitigate the risk of transmission in their sectors. These consultations will occur immediately and by next week decisions will be made.`
This is a one-month slowdown to try to get control of these excellerating rates of transmission with the hope that these restrictions may be able to be relaxed for Christmas. This comes after a record-breaking number of new COVID-19 cases in the province. The past four days since Health Minister Merriman announced the expansion of the masking mandate beyond the three biggest cities, have a cumulative total of 910 new cases. Since November 1st when we had 798 active cases in the province and there were only 74 new cases reported, with only 7 in ICU and 33 total in hospital, the numbers have more than doubled in each of these categories in the intervening 16 days. We currently have 2055 active cases of which 71 are in the hospital and 15 of those are in ICU. After the announcement on Friday, 400+ Saskatchewan doctors reacted strongly calling for the government to include the entire province in the masking order and to do a “circuit-breaker” lockdown, Premier Moe defended the decision to go with a slowdown rather than a lockdown citing the needs of the economy. Too many people lost jobs in the spring and another lockdown would mean more permanent job losses. The Premier said that we still have time to avoid a complete lockdown and the hope is to curb the spread prior to Christmas so that people may be able to have some sort of visitation at that time.
These numbers are not just numbers, they are our neighbours, our family members, our friends, they are people. If the cases continue to increase more restrictive measures may be forthcoming. The active case rate in Saskatchewan is the third highest in the country, only exceeded by Alberta and Manitoba, and the next two weeks will be critical Dr. Shahab stated. Certainly, for the next couple weeks we may see a continued climb, but we should be able to start to see a leveling and hopefully a decline within the upcoming three weeks. While there continues to be a resistance to wearing masks in some sectors and some people almost take it as a ‘badge of honour’ to go about without masks, the enforcement of the masking orders is being left to the discretion of the local authorities. As always, affirmed Premier Moe, compliance is the goal rather than enforcement.
The Premier says that he firmly believes the province can avoid another lockdown. There is no magic number that will tip the balance towards a lockdown, the Premier asserted, it would be a collective decision based on a collective number of factors. We all need to go back to the sense of caution that we had in the spring when we in the province so effectively flattened the curve. The curve of infection here in Saskatchewan is identical to that of Manitoba, with a 17 day lag. We need to reduce our number of contacts on a day-to-day basis, use the universal precautions continuously, and act proactively to prevent transmissions. We have six weeks until Christmas.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder