The pandemic that has left more than one million dead worldwide is showing no signs of abating and in many locales has ramped up into the dreaded second wave. Since early July, new daily case totals have averages over 200,000 worldwide. Over half of the 36.9 million worldwide confirmed cases are attributed to just three countries: United States with 7.7 million, India with 7 million, and Brazil with 5 million.
Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement on Saturday October 10th that while cases of COVID-19 over the summer were most concentrated in the 20 to 39-year old age range, infections are once again increasing in older populations.
While Quebec and Ontario continue to record the highest numbers for daily new cases with Quebec’s average climbing to over 1000/day and Ontario over 600/day, it must not be overlooked that other areas of the country are also seeing an uptick in cases. Over the past weekend Manitoba set new records in numbers of new cases recording 97 on Saturday. Here in Saskatchewan, new case numbers crept up above twenty per day resulting from contacts which occurred at a funeral/wake in the Far North, and a gathering at a Full Gospel Outreach event where the organizer claimed to not have known the restrictions applied. It will be next week before we get a real idea of how well people in our province managed to protect themselves and others over the Thanksgiving weekend, but the provincial government has guidelines on its website for how to safely enjoy more of the typical fall activities. Remember events that have exceeded the allowable gathering sizes and do not follow public health protocols have been a major source of COVID-19 transmission.
Fall suppers/fowl suppers are permitted and must follow the gathering limits in the current Public Health Order which allows 30 or fewer persons provided that there is enough space to maintain two metre distancing between people who are not in the same or extended household. Fall/fowl suppers must follow the Banquets and Conference Facilities Guidelines in the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan. Meals can be offered as takeout, or as some places are doing drive-through. If the meal is operating as takeout the organizers must ensure that there are no more 30 in the facility at any one time and as always that physical distancing is maintained in lines. No self-serve or buffet style meals are allowed.
Pumpkin picking patches are permitted with entry being limited to allow for physical distancing between family groups and distancing between people not of the same or extended family group can be maintained in queues. Access to the patch must be controlled by blocking off areas and/or minimizing the number of entrances and exits. Traffic should be directed through the patch by ropes, barriers, visible markings on the ground such as chalk, or other types of highly visible markers and where possible one-direction traffic flow should be implemented to promote physical distancing. Hand sanitizer should be readily available for frequent sanitizing before, during and after picking and operators must clean and disinfect any common or high touch surfaces. If photo stations are available, the normal two metre distancing must be maintained between groups as well as between photographer and those being photographed, and the station must be disinfected between photo sessions. Any outdoor play spaces in the pumpkin patches must follow the Recreation Guidelines.
When it comes to Hallowe’en, trick-or-treating is permitted but additional safety measures need to be followed to keep everyone safe. For the trick-or-treaters, due to the number of people who could potentially be touching treats prior to them being given out, the wrappers should be wiped with disinfectant wipes before opening and consuming or they should be held for 72 hours before opening the wrappers. Carry small bottle of hand sanitizer and sanitize hands frequently. It is also important to practice physical distancing when approaching houses, for example wait close to the curb until a group already at the door of a house to finish and walk away before approaching. For those giving out treats, there should be no direct physical contact with trick-or-treaters and consider using tools such as kitchen tongs to distribute treats. Only store-bought wrapped treats should be distributed. Areas that will experience frequent contact such as handrails and doorbells, should be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Both trick-or-treaters and those handing out treats should consider wearing non-medical masks and where possible only one member of a household should hand out treats. If someone is planning to host a Haunted House, they must ensure one-way traffic and walk-through times must be ten minutes apart to avoid congestion. Hand sanitizer must be available throughout the haunted house and frequent cleaning and disinfection of common and high-touch surfaces is mandatory.
Looking forward into November, safety guidelines have been drawn up for Remembrance Day Ceremonies. Wherever possible, the option for virtual attendance using online streaming should be provided. It is up to organizers to manage the positioning and movement of those in attendance to minimize crowding and accommodate physical distancing. Indoor venues that have been previously approved to accommodate crowds exceeding the gathering limits in the Public Health Order, can welcome up to 150 people, not including the event staff or those in the ceremonies, providing the two metre physical distancing requirement can be maintained at all times between non-household/extended household groups. For outdoor venues attendance must be limited to 150 people, excluding event staff and those involved in the ceremony, and markings must be in place to facilitate safe distancing. Common walkways must be clearly marked and indicate direction of flow and organizers must maintain control of access to event areas. Whether indoor or out, hand sanitizer must be available at the entry to the area and outside washrooms. Non-medical masks are recommended where distancing I unpredictable or cannot be maintained and this includes organizers, event staff, volunteers and participants in the ceremony. If food service is provided the guidelines for Restaurant and Licensed Establishments must be adhered to and musical performances including The Last Post, must follow the Performing Arts guidelines. Following the guidelines that have been developed will help to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder