COVID-19 in Sask: Plan to gradually ‘reopen’ province could come next week if cases stay low, premier says


  • Premier Scott Moe said Monday that if case numbers remain low next week, the province might release a plan to “reopen segments of the economy” in tandem with ramped-up testing and contact tracing. The province’s top public health doctor is being consulted. 
  • There are now 300 cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, including 178 people who have recovered from the virus.
  • Only two new cases were announced Monday, the lowest daily increase in nearly a month. 
  • 27 cases are instances of local transmission not tied to a large gathering. 
  • The family of the fourth and youngest Saskatchewan resident to die of COVID-19 complications believes his was a case of community transmission.
  • The trial of two men accused of breaking and entering is scheduled to proceed in person in Saskatoon amid the current pandemic. 

Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 cases tally reached the 300-person mark on Monday with the announcement of only two new cases. 

That’s the lowest daily increase since March 16, when only one new case was announced. 

On the heels of that positive development, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the government will be consulting the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, this week on a plan to gradually “reopen” Saskatchewan.

Moe said he expects to release the plan “at some point next week if our case numbers continue to hold steady where they are.” But he stressed that any reopening will be done “cautiously, methodically and gradually.”

“Businesses will be expected to maintain good physical distancing and good cleaning practices,” Moe said. “There is no magic switch that we can flip that sends everything back to normal overnight.”

Ramped up testing would be needed

No specific timeline was given for the actual reopening of “segments of the economy.”

“We would need to see a constant for some period of time, and we are starting to see that constant,” Moe said. ” But we are only one outbreak away from from interrupting those numbers.”

The phased-in loosening of current public health orders — which include the closing of thousands of non-essential businesses — would be matched by a “vigorous” increase in testing as well as increased contact tracing, Moe added. 

Moe previously announced a plan to ramp up testing to 1,500 tests a day by the end of April. 

The number of tests performed each day has vacillated — peaking at 1,051 tests on April 8, but decreasing sharply to 528 on Sunday, for example.

Moe was asked if it might not be too early to consider a loosening of the restrictions in place.

“No one should read anything into our comments about opening up, in phases, some areas of our economy with being complacent. Nothing could be further from the truth,” the premier said. “When we talk about our testing and contact tracing regime being among the most vigorous in the country, we’re very serious about that.” 

Here’s how the province’s cases break down regionally as of Monday.

Saskatoon continues to far outpace other regions. (CBC)

Moe also confirmed that the rapid access COVID-19 test kits Saskatchewan recently ordered are the same as those approved for use on Monday by Health Canada. Moe said thousands of tests are expected to arrive in the coming weeks. 

More than half of cases recovered

Fourteen more people have recovered from the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to 178, according to a news release issued before the news conference. 

“That means nearly 60 per cent of people who contracted COVID-19 in Saskatchewan have now fully recovered,” Moe said. 

There are still no cases of COVID-19 among patients in long-term care. But Moe said the province is looking at even more stringent measures to prevent outbreaks in those centres.

Those extra steps include “continuous masking” and the added measure of requiring workers to have their temperatures checked after their shifts. Workers’ temperatures were previously ordered to be taken before their shifts began. 

“Unfortunately, in many parts of Canada, a lot of the transmission is within long-term care facilities,” Shahab said. “We need to do everything that we can to prevent that [here].”

Low hospitalization rate so far 

Sunday marked one month since the province announced its first case of the novel coronavirus on March 12.

Since then, the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations has remained relatively low in Saskatchewan, peaking at eight in terms of simultaneous hospitalizations. Only up to two people at a time have been in intensive care. 

As of Monday’s update, there were only eight COVID-19 patients in hospital.

Still, the province is readying itself for a potential surge in serious cases by preparing to shuffle health-care workers to different hospitals, if needed, as well as selecting certain floors and wards of hospitals to keep COVID-19 cases together. 

On Saturday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority issued an advisory to remind people that the current pandemic situation shouldn’t deter patients from seeking non-virus-related emergency care.

“Local emergency departments and hospitals remain safe places for individuals to go for acute care services,” according to the release. “If you feel unwell and think you require urgent or emergent care, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency department. Medical professionals are there to care for you, just as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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