Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe tested positive on a rapid antigen test for COVID-19 on Thursday, the day after appearing at an in-person news conference about the COVID situation in the province.
Moe's press secretary, Julie Leggott, said in an email that Moe has been routinely using rapid antigen testing to monitor for COVID-19. She said he isn't experiencing any symptoms, despite his positive test.
Moe's last negative test was Sunday evening, Leggott said.
Both Moe and provincial chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab were present at Wednesday's news conference at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building.
Shahab kept his mask on while speaking, but Moe repeatedly removed his mask to speak or answer questions from reporters.
During a provincial emergency operations centre (PEOC) press conference on Thursday, Shahab said he was notified that he was considered a close contact to Moe, but noted he keeps his "mask on at all times."
Shahab said his mask choice has depended on the situation, but he has upgraded from a cloth mask earlier in the pandemic to a KN95-type mask. Shahab said he has been reusing medical masks for dozens of hours and recommends conserving masks unless people are in a health-care settings.
"Many of us will be faced with [a COVID-19] exposure and in most cases we won't even know it because if they're not doing a regular antigen test, as the premier was … there wouldn't even be this notification," Shahab said.
Shahab said at a household level, one to two rapid antigen tests per person each week — potentially more depending on the person's occupation — is sufficient and that people shouldn't be testing excessively.
He said close contacts should consider testing on days three, five and seven after the exposure, as he will be as a close contact to Premier Moe.
"Our family does antigen testing regularly, those who are in school for example do it more regularly," he said.
In her email, Leggott suggested "all those in attendance [at the news conference] should self-monitor and rapid test, and all close contacts within the past 48 hours have been notified in accordance with public health's guidance."
Leggott said Moe has "followed all COVID-19 protocols in accordance with the public health order," and will be isolating at home for five days, as per the current requirements.
Ryan Meili, the leader of the provincial opposition, wished the premier a "speedy recovery" in a statement Thursday afternoon.
"This is a good reminder to follow Dr. Shahab's advice on wearing medical grade masks and to avoid unnecessary gatherings," it said.
"Given the premier did not do a rapid antigen test before visiting a school in La Loche and touring northern communities or before hosting a media event in the legislature, I encourage the premier's office to work with public health to ensure all potential close contacts have been notified."
In days since his last negative rapid antigen test Sunday, Premier Moe has been pictured at several public events, including an announcement at an elementary school in La Loche and a discussion on mental health and addictions support in Pinehouse, Lac La Ronge and Buffalo Narrows. Both occurred on Monday.
Leggott said that attendees to these events or gatherings are not considered close contacts because they are outside the 48-hour window as identified by public health.
"As Premier Moe tested positive this morning, any activity on or before Jan. 10 falls outside of that time period," she said.
When asked why the premier didn't take a rapid antigen test prior to attending Wedneday's in-person news conference, Leggott referred to Shahab's advice to rapid test weekly as a surveillance tool.
She also defended the premier's decision to remove his mask, saying the current public health order, allows "individuals to remove their mask while at a press conference."
Moe will not be seeking a PCR test yet because he is not symptomatic, she said.
Exactly two weeks prior to Moe's positive rapid antigen test, there was a news conference at the legislature that put him and Health Minister Paul Merriman at risk of COVID-19.
Both monitored for symptoms of COVID-19 after someone who attended the news conference tested positive for the virus.
Moe also took his mask off several times to speak and answer questions during that news conference.