The Saskatchewan government has released a three-step plan to gradually relax provincial COVID-19 public health measures, with some current restrictions potentially being eased as soon as late May if the government’s desired vaccination targets are met.
In a news release issued Tuesday, the province openly stated that the plan is meant in part as “an incentive” for Saskatchewan residents to follow health measures and get vaccinated.
“Those are the two things we all need to do in order to move forward through the three steps of reopening so we can enjoy a great Saskatchewan summer and get back to normal,” Premier Scott Moe said in the release.
In a news conference, Moe said he knows there are people who are still on the fence about getting vaccinated.
“It’s time for you to get off that fence,” he said, adding that Saskatchewan is expected to receive more than 300,000 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine in May.
The potential timeline for the reopening plan — with the rules being increasingly relaxed or removed in the last week of May, the third week of June and finally in the second week of July — is “subject to change if vaccination targets are not met,” according to a graphic also release by the province.
The graphic also outlined the specific changes associated with each step — everything from allowing group fitness classes to resume during Step One to removing current capacity limits for stores in Step Two.
Removing the need to wear masks is not mentioned in the plan, though under Step Three the graphic notes “guidance on gathering sizes and indoor masking is still being developed.”
Each of the three stages of change has two thresholds that must be met before it is triggered:
- Step One: It has been three weeks since 70 per cent of residents aged 40 and above have received their first dose, and vaccine eligibility has opened to all adults ages 18 and older across the province.
- Step Two: It has been three weeks since 70 per cent of residents age 30 and above have received their first dose and three weeks since Step One began.
- Step Three: It has been three weeks since 70 per cent of residents age 18 and older have received their first dose and three weeks Step Two began.
As of Tuesday, 65 per cent of those Saskatchewan residents aged 40 and over had received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Here’s a breakdown by age groups:
Moe was joined by provincial chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab during the news conference and was asked why other metrics — such as COVID-19 hospitalizations — are not being cited in the plan.
Moe said vaccination numbers are what drive down hospitalizations.
Shahab added that both May and June are expected be “blockbuster months” in terms of vaccine supply.
Read the full reopening plan here:
The premier already confirmed earlier this week that Saskatchewan’s seven-day average of daily new cases won’t be “the exact metric” the government will use in deciding when to lift some restrictions.
That average currently stands at 230, or 18.8 new cases per 100,000 people — roughly on par with the average recorded in late November, early in the second wave.
Here’s the 7-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan. The rolling average is still higher than what the province recorded in November. <a href=”https://twitter.com/CBCSask?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CBCSask</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19SK?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19SK</a> <a href=”https://t.co/yNcYvdbatd”>pic.twitter.com/yNcYvdbatd</a>
The announcement of the plan comes after weeks of Saskatchewan doctors warning that intensive care wards, particularly those in Regina, face a higher-than-normal patient load due to people infected with COVID-19.
Younger COVID-19 patients are being admitted to ICUs and staying for longer periods of time, according to the latest COVID-19 info sheet shared among Saskatchewan Health Authority physicians last Thursday.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Regina ICUs has decreased in the last two weeks, from 35 on April 20 to 21 as of Monday.
During the same period, the number of Saskatoon ICU patients with COVID has inched up, from 10 to 14.
Overall COVID-19 hospitalizations across the province went from 195 to 174 during that time frame.