Shortly after the provincial government announced it was going to be reducing its daily briefings on the COVID-19 case numbers status in Saskatchewan, an outbreak occurred over the weekend in southwest and west-central Saskatchewan, resulting in a briefing on July 13. Now NDP Leader and Leader of the Opposition Ryan Meili is calling for daily briefings to continue.
There are 31 new cases of COVID-19 to report in Saskatchewan on July 13. In addition, there were two cases reported on July 11 and 23 cases reported on July 12. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan to 871, as of July 13.
The regional data is as follows:
• July 11 - one new case in the Central region and one in the South.
• July 12 - 13 new cases in the South, five in the Saskatoon area, three in Central and two in the Regina area.
• July 13 - 27 new cases in the Central region, two in the Regina area, one in the Saskatoon area and one in the South.
Previously reported COVID-19 infections in the Southwest now stretch farther and there is growing evidence of spread throughout Southwest and West-Central Saskatchewan.
This includes cases in the Rural Municipalities of Maple Creek, Auvergne, Biggar, Carmichael, Eagle Creek, Harris, Lac Pelletier, Newcombe, Perdue, Kellross and Prairiedale. Saskatchewan residents in these communities and across the province are strongly encouraged to follow the necessary public health measures and personal safety precautions, including self-isolating if you or a close contact have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority are working together with the Hutterian Safety Council to address the situation. Their cooperation has allowed for increased testing and contact tracing in these areas, which greatly contributed to identifying these new cases and ensuring residents are receiving the support they need.
Over the next number of days increased testing and contact tracing resources will be deployed to the affected communities and surrounding areas.
The daily mid-afternoon briefings on the status of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan have been a fixture in this province since mid-March, usually featuring Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, and often Premier Scott Moe or Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
According to an email from the Ministry of Health on Monday, “The Government of Saskatchewan issues COVID-19 updates through news releases on weekdays. Saskatchewan Health Authority press conferences are held on Tuesday afternoons and Ministry of Health press conferences are held on Thursday afternoons. Additional press conferences may be held on other days when there are major developments to share with the public, and this schedule is often subject to change. These press conferences give reporters the chance to ask questions of senior health officials and helps ensure residents are kept informed of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 case numbers and have the information they need to stay as safe as possible.”
There was indeed a full-scale briefing on Monday with Health Minister Jim Reiter, Dr. Shahab and SHA CEO Scott Livingstone joining on the phone.
Of the 871 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 90 are considered active. A total of 766 people have recovered.
Three people are in hospital, and one individual is receiving inpatient care in Saskatoon. Two people are in intensive care; one in Saskatoon and one in the South.
Of the 871 cases in the province, 174 cases are travellers; 487 are community contacts (including mass gatherings); 128 have no known exposures; 82 are under investigation by local public health, and 57 cases are health care workers; however, the source of the infections may not be related to health care in all instances.
By region, 339 of the cases are from the Far North, 198 are from the Saskatoon area, 120 from the North, 84 from the Regina area, 83 from the South and 47 from the Central region.
Going by age categories, 121 cases involve people 19 years of age and under; 309 cases are in the 20-39 age range; 269 are in the 40-59 age range; 149 are in the 60-79 age range; and 23 are in the 80-plus range.
About 52 per cent of the cases are females and 48 per cent are males. Fifteen deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported to date.
To date, 75,161 COVID‐19 tests have been performed in Saskatchewan. As of July 11, when other provincial and national numbers were available from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Saskatchewan’s per capita rate was 55,404 people tested per million population. The national rate was 85,473 people tested per million population.
NDP calls for more detail
Saskatchewan NDP Leader and Leader of the Opposition Ryan Meili, who resumed his medical practice as a physician part-time to assist with the COVID-19 crisis, said the government has not been providing enough information to the people of Saskatchewan, and it should.
“As we increased the number of cases over the last three days, a doubling of the active cases of COVID-19 is really concerning information. It's also really concerning the ways that we're learning about three days where we had a fairly significant spike in the number of cases and the distribution of that cases throughout Saskatchewan. And we're learning about this after the fact.
“This is a pattern with this government that was initially very reluctant to address COVID-19, was slow to take important initial steps when there was the outbreak in La Loche. They downplayed it for days and days, allowing that to get worse. There was an outbreak in Lloydminster. They didn't even share that information with the mayor and the community until days afterwards. And now, we've got this situation and a series of outbreaks throughout the province, a high number of new cases and information coming out days later, it's not the right way.
“The default with this government and with Minister Reiter, in particular, in his direction of the Ministry of Health has been towards decreasing the information available to the public as the opposite of what we need to be doing.
“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.
“Stop going back to only one press briefing a week. Let's keep the daily briefings up. Let's keep the access to information, especially now, as we're out of session,” he said.
“We've got a government that finally decided, with this series of outbreaks, we need to tell you what RMs are involved. It's really interesting why they chosen to do that, in particular. Are they trying to point out some specific community as somehow being at fault today? This is a strange approach, given the inconsistency with earlier times.”
Meili would like to see the province continue to provide this level of detail. “This has been a very confusing approach, and today's added information is welcome. But it also really clashes with what the approach has been from this government throughout.
“I think there's some real inconsistency in what the minister has been allowing to come out, thus far,” Meili said. “The message has always been, ‘Well, nobody needs that information and won't change your behaviour. Everybody should be doing the same things.’
“But then today, we've got this level and the suggestion that maybe it should change people's behaviour in those communities. It's got to be one or the other. And frankly, I think we should trust the people of Saskatchewan with more information and yes, if you're in Estevan and there's an outbreak in Arcola and Carlyle, it does make a difference to how you how you experience what's going on, as compared to it's happening in North Battleford. People still should be taking these precautions. It can happen anywhere at any time, but it does mean something to people to know and understand that is happening in the community close to them,” Meili concluded.
Saskatchewan residents should follow public health measures and personal safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Safety precautions include physical distancing to maintain two metres of separation, implementing proper hygiene practices and complying with provincial health orders, including limiting the size of outdoor gatherings.
Anyone with symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, headaches, aches and pains, sore throat, chills, runny nose or a loss of sense of taste or smell, should protect themselves and others, especially the vulnerable, by staying home, self-isolating and getting tested for COVID-19.
As of July 14, COVID-19 testing will be available universally to anyone who requests it, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. A referral for testing can be made by contacting HealthLine 811. SHA laboratories are currently processing approximately 600 tests per day, with capacity to perform upwards of 1,800 tests per day.