When it comes to Saskatchewan’s new COVID-19 restrictions, Premier Scott Moe said he wants to avoid a scenario like the one playing out in Manitoba, where non-essential businesses like restaurants and gyms have had to close. “Why we went to mandatory masking in all communities now was, I was contacted over the weekend by a number of MLAs, who were contacted by their constituents, as well as a number of people that I talked to as well. (The previous order) issued on Friday November 13th was just too confusing.” Moe told John Gormley on CJME radio Wednesday November 18th that he does not believe a shutdown of that kind will be necessary in this province. “I don’t think we need to …,” Moe said. “We’ve been able to do this before. We’ve been able to drive these numbers down in previous attempts and now we just need to do it again.”
Effective Thursday November 19th, wearing a non-medical mask in all indoor public spaces in Saskatchewan became mandatory. For clarification as to what comprises an ‘indoor public space’ the government posted information on this on the government of Saskatchewan site, but to find it requires the correct search prompts because it cannot be found through the press releases. For clarity an ‘indoor public space’ includes: all healthcare facilities; all long-term care, personal care and assisted living facilities; pharmacies; medical service centres and offices; retail businesses; shopping centres, markets and malls; service businesses (mechanic, insurance, accountant etc); personal services businesses (hair salons etc); restaurants and bars; places of worship or faith; places of cultural or entertainment services (movie theatres etc); places for sports and recreational activities (gym, arena, dance studio etc); conference centres; all government service locations; common areas of tourist accommodations including lobbies, hallways and elevators; common areas of office buildings including lobbies, hallways and elevators but not private offices/cubicles; common areas of condo and apartment buildings; public areas of university and other post secondary education campuses not including labs, offices or residences; train or bus stations and shelters, airports; public transport including cabs, ride shares and carpooling.
Masks are NOT mandatory in workplaces the public does not have access to unless they are mandated by the individual workplace. Nor are individuals required to mask in the privacy of their own homes and residences and this includes the private areas of long-term care and personal care homes, group homes and assisted living spaces. Hotel and motel rooms, bedroom and private bathrooms in bed and breakfast facilities are also not considered as an indoor public space and are outside of the mandate.
Thursday afternoon Health Minister Paul Merriman and Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab provided an update on the provincial case count and Dr. Shahab presented the most current computer-generated modelling. These models show that if transmission rates don’t change by the end of November new case numbers could range up to a thousand new cases per day. Minister Merriman states that further measures may have to be considered if within the next 10 to 14 days we don’t see the numbers starting to trend downward. However, the response of the government is still trying to balance the health of the province physically with the health of the economy. The projections used by Dr. Shahab painted a very bleak picture for the end of the month which is only 10 days away and one has to question how much of a downward trend would be possible to achieve? The government continues to act in a reactionary manner rather than a proactive one, basing decisions on the daily numbers which represent the transmissions that occurred in the past.
Data collected by the University of Saskatchewan (USask) wastewater surveillance team shows that COVID-19 case numbers are likely going to jump drastically in the upcoming week. Those infected with the virus shed traces of it in their feces, in many cases before they begin to show symptoms. The team’s approach notes changes in the amount of virus found in the city’s wastewater and precedes changes in case counts by about one week. Markus Brinkman, USask toxicologist, says that based on the data they have accumulated, the team expects to see an average of 100 to 150 new cases each day in Saskatoon and unless there is a significant change in the rate of transmission, this trend will continue.
Dr Cory Neudorf, a USask professor of Community Health and Epidemiology and a consulting medical health officer with the SHA related that, “This data can provide an early warning that testing capacity could be stretched further in the coming week. And if we know that case numbers are likely to go up, we know that a week or two after that, hospitalization rates and ICU admissions will go up.” The methods developed and used by the USask team have been validated by reliability testing at laboratories across Canada and was found to be accurate in detecting the virus at different concentrations. The USask method is being used by other institutions in Ontario, Texas and China.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder