REGINA — With COVID-19 cases declining, Saskatchewan plans to resume dozens of health-care services that have been cut since September.
Most of the services that are returning are community-based such as child therapies and clinics, rehab, and autism services.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Tuesday that throughout the month, hundreds of health-care workers who were deployed to help with COVID-19 testing and contact tracing will go back to their original jobs. The government is also bringing back its organ donation program, which was suspended at the end of September.
Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer, cautioned that people must still follow public health rules.
"Even though our case numbers are coming down, we need to keep them down," Shahab said.
"We need to make sure that they remain down while our ICUs and acute care wards empty out with COVID-19 patients."
The health authority said it will bring back as many services as possible without affecting the province's vaccine program, or hospitals.
Hundreds of redeployed health-care workers will remain in hospitals to deal with surging COVID-19 patients. The resumption of some services this month is not expected to affect about 35,000 residents awaiting surgeries.
The province's ICUs remain overcapacity and the need for federal government help continues.
On Tuesday, Saskatchewan reported 85 new cases of COVID-19, a decline from the triple-digits reported daily over the last few weeks, with 193 people in hospital.
Shahab said if hospitalizations continue to decline, more services will return. He is encouraging people to keep their gatherings small over the coming holidays.
"Things are looking better than they were four to six weeks ago but we really have to stay the course," he said.
"We can't let our attention slip. The winter months are going to be critical."
About 20 per cent of Saskatchewan's eligible population remains unvaccinated. Another 12 per cent under the age of 12 are ineligible for the vaccine.
Shahab said that is enough to see a spike in cases.
"We are a vast province, with a dispersed population and things can go up and down in remote communities and small urban centres and large urban centres very quickly and we need to stay on top of that," Shahab said.
The province is also keeping an eye on a variant of interest called AY.25.1, a subtype of the Delta variant that is becoming prevalent in Western Canada and is becoming more predominant in Saskatchewan.
Shahab said he doesn't think the variant has more severe outcomes than Delta, but the health authority is monitoring the strain.
"While we are watching this very closely, the principles remain the same; make sure you're vaccinated, follow public health measures and go beyond that."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2021.
Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press