With COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan continuing to go up at a high rate, the province is enacting more public health measures that take effect Thursday and will be in place until December 17 when they will be reviewed by the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.
After saying last week that only certain communities had a mandatory mask policy, the government is now extending that to be province-wide. Several had said that should have been established on Friday instead of just naming 59 places that had to do so. The government acknowledged that while the policy was what they said the strongest in Western Canada, many MLA’s along with the Premier’s office and Saskatchewan Health had talked to and spoken with many who said what was put in place was confusing so they are going to make it simple and expand that policy to be province-wide.
Visitation to all long-term care facilities and personal care homes are being suspended again. The only exception to this is for compassionate reasons as per the current family visitation policy.
Private indoor gathering sizes are reduced from 10 to 5 with the government saying if your immediate family is five or greater, you can not have additional visitors with gatherings of any size beyond your immediate household being strongly discouraged.
- Support personnel (ie. therapists, nursing staff) and tradespersons (ie. housekeeper, plumber) are permitted though they should maintain two metre distancing and be masked during service provision. Health care workers not able to maintain physical distancing when providing home care services must wear appropriate PPE.
- Any private gathering of more than five people/your immediate household must occur in a public venue (ie. restaurant, community hall), abiding by all applicable guidelines of physical distancing, food service, masking, etc.
- Outdoor private gatherings remain at 30 people maximum and only if physical distancing of two metres can be maintained at all times.
Entertainment transportation like party buses, group limousines and recreational vehicles are no longer permitted.
In addition, the government is recommending that all work be done from home as much as possible if your occupation allows it and that those already working from home should continue to do so.
When asked why the government is doing this, Premier Scott Moe responded with a simple answer.
“Our numbers in this province are not good and the trend is in the wrong direction. We have too many new cases, we have too many in hospital and we have too many in intensive care.” Moe said. ” We need to do what we can to get these numbers down keeping in mind these are not just numbers. Each and every one of these numbers represents a Saskatchewan person, they represent our friends and neighbours who have contracted a very dangerous disease. Most will recover, but some will get sick, some will end up in hospital and some will die which is why we need to slow this virus in our communities.
Moe also made it clear the province does not wish to go back to where they were in March when a lockdown was ordered.
This is not a lockdown, it is a slowdown, a significant one-month slowdown so let’s slow down our amount of activity occurring outside of our home.” Moe said emphatically. “Let’s slow down the amount of movement, the amount of contacts we have and let’s look at reasons to stay home instead of going out. This one-month slowdown is how we will slow the spread of this virus so that hopefully we can relax some of these restrictions in time for the holiday season.
That being said, Shahab feels the next two weeks will be critical and that if numbers continue to trend up some more difficult choices will have to be made.
Moe bristled at suggestions that he is trading jobs for health by not implementing a second lockdown. Moe responded by saying 70,000 jobs were lost in that initial lockdown with 15,000 not being able to return to their job for whatever reason. He says another lockdown will result in tens of thousands of jobs being lost which is something Saskatchewan families and communities do not need so it is imperative that the government does what it can to operate what they can in a safe and responsible manner.
As far as the hospitality industry, recreation and athletic organizations and worship guidelines go, the government says they will be consulting with them as how the guidelines, taken seriously by many, can be enhanced to ensure the necessary measures are being taken to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
The information comes out as the government surpassed the 2,000 active case mark on Tuesday after 240 new cases were reported.
The complete Re-Open Saskatchewan plan can be found here.