Regina – Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 numbers have been generally rising in what appears to be another wave, resulting in the provincial government extending public health measures once again, but this time for just one week, to April 12. This comes as cases are rising in the Moose Jaw, Weyburn and Estevan areas.
Premier Scott Moe made the announcement during the regular COVID-19 briefing on March 30 from the Legislature.
On that day, Saskatchewan had 164 new cases of COVID-19, 201 recoveries, and one new death.
The seven-day average of daily new cases had climbed to 201 from 128, 11 days earlier.
Saskatchewan has now “delivered more than 184,000 shots, that is directly into the arms of Saskatchewan residents,” Moe said, adding that is a rate of over 15,600 per 100,000 of our population, the highest rate of any province in Canada.
He said Saskatchewan is quickly moving through its most vulnerable residents, seniors, and is just about finished delivering both the first and second doses to long-term care and personal care home residents.
As of March 28, 74 per cent of long-term care residents had received their second shot, and 71 per cent of personal care home residents had received theirs. For people over 80, 76 per cent had their first dose and for people 70-79, 47 per cent had their first dose.
He said that Saskatchewan residents over 60 can now start booking their shots.
“Our vaccination rate has slowed down just a little bit this week, as we wait for our next deliveries of Moderna, as well as AstraZeneca to arrive, but it's going to pick up again, and it's going to pick up again very quickly. In fact, over the course of the next two weeks, we are expecting almost 180,000 doses to be delivered in Saskatchewan,” he said. “That’s near as many in the next two weeks, as we have gotten thus far.”
He spoke of the new ad campaign, launched the day before, called “Stick It To COVID.”
“I think the ads are quite strong. I think they're actually great. The first one reminds us a lot of both of the things that we may have missed over the course of the past year, but things that we will be able to do again soon enough when we have the majority of Saskatchewan residents vaccinated. So, in the coming days, you're going to see additional versions of the ad with messages from Saskatchewan people about why it's so important for each of us to consider getting vaccinated, and why it's important for all of us to keep us all safe. So let's all do exactly what the ad says, when it's your turn. Let's stick it to COVID and let's get vaccinated.”
In recent days concerns have been raised about the AstraZeneca vaccine with regards to possible blood clots. As a result, on March 29, Saskatchewan joined other provinces in suspending its distribution to people under 55.
Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said they had received guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) that it is recommended for use for people 55 and older but not under that age, due to concern from Europe about “rare signals of blood clotting in women 20 to 55.”
“While we are watching that closely, we have to recognize that we had a very successful program, drive-thru program of delivering AstraZeneca.” He said many people, including himself, had taken it, and it is protecting people in their sixties.
“I think we need to be reassured that all vaccines, including AstraZeneca, remain very safe, we have not had any reports of adverse events, as reported in Europe, in Canada,” Shahab said. For those who have had it in the last 20 days, if they develop symptoms, an investigation will be done.
Saskatchewan will continue to have AstraZeneca in small amounts, and it will continue to be offered to people over 55.
Moe said Saskatchewan would soon be getting 45,000 AstraZeneca doses from the U.S., and another 10,000 from India, for 55,000 doses in the next 15 to 20 days. “We’re going to put those all through drive-thrus in Regina, in Weyburn, Moose Jaw, Yorkton and Saskatoon,” Moe said.
He said you should take the vaccine you are offered, as it will be safe for your age category.
Shahab said, “We have to remember that in the UK, they have vaccinated 50 per cent of the population using both AstraZeneca and Pfizer, and have not seen the same concern, so far, that some countries in Europe have reported.”
Shahab added, “We are obviously very concerned that the case numbers and Regina, and increasingly in other jurisdictions in Saskatchewan, for example, in Moose Jaw and in Weyburn, Estevan.”
In Moose Jaw, he suggested ordering takeout or curbside pickup when ordering from restaurants there, for instance. “Moose Jaw is on red alert, and this has to be watched very closely.
He pointed out Weyburn and Estevan both had higher numbers of active cases.
Shahab said over the next six to eight weeks, the bulk of the population over 40 will have been vaccinated, especially people with underlying risk factors, and that things should look very different in that time.
The spring sitting of the Legislature is slated to begin April 6. Moe said, “The spring sitting is going to look an awful lot like the fall sitting with members physically distance liked we were in the fall. About half of the MLAs will be in the assembly at any point in time.”
He said it was important to get back into the House to conduct the business of the province, pass legislation and a budget.
With reference to Moose Jaw, NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat said in an emailed statement, “Once again we are seeing Scott Moe and this Sask. Party government ignore the warning signs for a community in our province.
“You only need to look down the road to Regina to see the cost of inaction. Regina hospital admissions and ICU beds are overwhelmed. This is the direct result of Scott Moe’s failure to take responsibility. Schools in Moose Jaw have moved to remote learning, but the government is keeping bars and restaurants open. It doesn’t make any more sense in Moose Jaw than it did in Regina.
“Hopefully the government will come to its senses and introduce similar restrictions in Moose Jaw as it has in Regina. If it does so, it shouldn't have to wait for a Tuesday at 3:00pm. The virus moves at its own speed and we need to move faster to keep people safe.”
Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury