All remaining businesses to re-open under Phase Four

All the remaining re-openings under Phase Four of Re-Open Saskatchewan have been given the green light.

Premier Scott Moe made the announcement of all remaining re-opening dates at a news conference Tuesday.

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The latest re-openings cover  indoor pools, indoor rinks, indoor sports and activities, casinos and bingo halls, as well as increased seating capacity at restaurants and licensed establishments. Premier Moe added that all of the latest re-openings and activities have guidelines they need to follow to keep staff and customers safe.

Details are as follows:

Starting Monday July 6, all indoor recreational facilities including pools, rinks, indoor sports and activities including bowling alleys, and performing arts including music, dance and theatre, can re-open.

Also that day, the 50-percent limit on seating capacity at restaurants and licensed establishments will be removed, with bars and restaurants needing an occupancy level that maintains  two metres of physical distance.

In addition, restaurants and bars will also be allowed on July 6 to reopen video lottery terminals (VLTs), pool tables, dart boards, arcade games and other recreation areas as long as physical distancing can be maintained.  Live entertainment is targeted for a July 16 return; the province says those guidelines are currently being developed.

On Thursday, July 9, casinos and bingo halls can re-open under plans created by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority or SaskGaming.

Among the requirements in place for casinos: people should be discouraged from watching others play games; food and beverage service must be consistent with the restaurants and licensed establishment guidelines; show lounges and performances are subject to movie and live theatre guidelines; there are no table games permitted; there will be repositioning of seats or reductions in numbers of seats available; and coat checks shall not be provided at this time. Dealers, cashiers, servers and other staff not able to remain two metres from customers must wear non-medical masks (e.g. cloth or other materials) or procedure/surgical masks, according to the guidelines. They are recommending vulnerable staff (ie. those over 65 and those with underlying health conditions) wear a procedure/surgical mask.

For bingo halls, those are being urged to develop a risk mitigation strategy to manage operations in a safe and effective manner.

Racetracks and rodeo-related activities are targeted to resume on July 16 with a limited number of spectators, and guidelines are being developed and will include guidance related to spectators. This includes rodeos, barrel-racing and auto racing.

The province also announced that fall planning for post-secondary institutions is underway in consultation with public health; those institutions will be communicating to their campus communities in the near future.

‘With these re-openings virtually every kind of business, facility, service and activity in this province are now re-opened,” said Premier Moe. He also thanked people for their patience as they moved through the re-opening phases, and he encouraged people to “continue the good practices that have gotten us this far”.

He also pointed to the continued spread of COVID-19 elsewhere and noted it can “spread quickly if we let our guard down.” Moe said they would need to move forward very cautiously with Phase Five, which is the lifting of restrictions on large gatherings.

“We know that in Saskatchewan and elsewhere, large gatherings have resulted in the largest outbreaks. So we will be very cautious in relaxing those restrictions.”

Premier Moe also said at the news conference they were working with Saskatchewan Health Authority on new guidelines to provide greater opportunity to visit those in long term care or who are in the hospital. He said they must still be very careful in those facilities as that is where the most dangerous outbreaks in the nation and around the world have occurred, and cited the need to find the right balance to keep everyone safe.

At the news conference both Premier Moe and provincial chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab were asked about whether the localized outbreak at Emma Lake gave them pause regarding the expansion of capacity at restaurants and licensed establishments.

Dr. Shahab said the principles behind the initial 50-percent capacity was to “allow restaurants to make their business plan, and that really allowed all bars and restaurants to re-open in a safe manner.” He said several businesses said they could increase capacity while maintaining that physical separation.  

There may be an increase in risk, but Dr. Shahab added “we hope with these guidelines and regulations we won’t see multiple and expanding chains of transmission.”

The issue of mask-wearing in public also came up, in the wake of news from Toronto that the city was mandating the wearing of masks in public spaces.

Moe was asked about why they would not offer more strident requirements of mask-wearing given the openings. He responded that those who do not feel comfortable abiding by physical distancing standards should wear a mask and “we should be supportive of those individuals who choose to do so.”

Moe did open the door to the possibility of having a conversation with communities about mandatory mask use in cases of a localized outbreak. “We haven’t had to yet, but that would be something I think that we would want to have an active discussion about, prior to having to take more drastic action,” said Moe.   

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