On the heels of an increase in COVID-19 cases over the weekend of July 11-13, the Government of Saskatchewan has reversed its recent change in policy with regards to daily briefings on the state of the coronavirus in the province.
After several weeks of single digit new case counts, the Province had announced earlier in July it would no longer be providing daily briefings. The media strategy was scaled back to news releases on weekdays, with a Saskatchewan Health Authority press conference on Tuesday afternoons and a Ministry of Health press conference on Thursday afternoons. This came after nearly four months of daily briefings which largely said the same things, except with updated case and recovery counts.
However, July 13 saw a full-scale briefing to announce there had been two new cases of COVID-19 on July 11, but 23 on July 12 and 31 on July 13. This was followed by another full-scale briefing, with Premier Scott Moe at the helm, on July 14.
NDP Leader and Leader of the Opposition Ryan Meili criticized the initial move on July 13, saying, “Our default needs to be sharing as much information as we possibly can. And that is our call today. Stop the cancellation of giving us case numbers on the weekend and holidays. If we get a big spike on weekends and holidays, people need to know this information. (It) helps people make decisions.”
Moe said on July 14, “At the start of July, like many other provinces, we moved to a system here in Saskatchewan of not reporting new case numbers on the weekends. We did so because our cases it had been pretty stable for a number of days and weeks by that point. And because we wanted to give some of our health staff, who've been working very hard, a little bit of a breather on the weekends.
“However, this did cause some concern this past weekend with higher case numbers. We were fine the weekend before, where we had lower case numbers and did not report. But this past weekend, we did have some higher case numbers and it did create some concern. And for that reason, and because we want to be as forthcoming with information as possible, and we want to be as transparent as we are able, we will be going back to daily reporting of the case numbers, seven days a week, including on the weekends.”
Moe also noted earlier in his statement, “Increasing numbers over the recent number of days has been quite concerning and should serve as a reminder for each and every one of us that we have to continue with all of the good practices that have worked for us and have been successful thus far. The case numbers, I would add, are going to change from day to day. Some days will be higher, some days will be lower, but that in no way should change our behaviour from day-to-day. We have to keep doing the right things each and every day. The physical distancing, washing your hands, controlling the number of contacts that you come in close contact with. Staying home if you're not feeling well.
“We are now about four months into this COVID-19 pandemic in Saskatchewan. And while we have done an excellent job overall keeping our cases lower and hospitalizations low, and most importantly our fatalities very low, we have seen, and we continue to see local outbreaks that show just how quickly this virus can spread if we let our guard down even if it's just for a moment. So let's continue to be careful. The risk has not gone away.
“We have also shown that we can get these outbreaks under control, if we do the right things.”
He commended La Loche and other northern communities’ success in bringing a northern outbreak under control, bringing the active cases in the north to just six.
American border remains closed
According to Johns Hopkins University, on July 14, the United States saw 67,400 new cases, another record after a string of records since June 25. The American new case count from just the past two days, July 13 and 14, was 126,400, exceeding Canada’s total case count of 110,357 since the start of the pandemic.
Moe said, “Right now, the COVID situation is very, very challenging in the U.S. and it's getting worse. In Saskatchewan, our case numbers are going up or going up and down, and in the U.S., they just continue to go up and up. So we need to avoid that type of a situation here, so the Canada-U.S. border should stay closed to non-essential travel for the foreseeable future, at least out to August 21.”
Moe said he fully supports the federal government keeping the border with the United States closed.