Fine issued for mass-spreader COVID-19 event in Saskatoon

21 cases stem from private event that broke the rules

Government officials confirmed Thursday that a fine was issued in the wake of a gathering in Saskatoon that resulted in multiple cases of COVID-19.

A $2,000 fine was issued to the organizer of the gathering, for contravening the 30-person gathering limit in the public health order for that event, and it has so far resulted in 21 identified cases of COVID-19 to date. According to a provincial news release this was a private gathering with approximately 47 people in attendance.

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About 160 people have since been contacted as a result of the gathering, said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer. He made clear he didn't want similar instances to happen in the future.

"Things like this can snowball very quickly and that's what we need to avoid as we move forward," said Dr. Shahab. 

At a news conference Thursday Premier Scott Moe stopped short of calling it frustrating, in response to a reporter’s question, but did say it was “disappointing.”

While Ontario has brought in measures this week to reduce gathering sizes and increased fines, Moe said that was not being considered at this point in time for Saskatchewan.

He called what happened in Ontario was "reactive" to the situation there but "far and away, without exception, people are adhering to the public health guidelines that are there." 

There had been mass-transmission events at large gatherings back in March before the pandemic restrictions on gathering sizes. Since then, Dr. Shahab noted the province had done well in the last six months and emphasized the importance of "having the discipline for small private gatherings."  

The main messaging at the news conference was for people to keep their gatherings under the 30-person limit and to continue their practices of social distancing and washing and sanitizing hands, and to be cautious when visiting family and friends.It was noted most of the large-spreader events have been in social setting with the spread of food.

"It just takes one infected person in that kind of a setting to pass the virus on to many other guests. And they go home and pass that virus on to their family and other close contacts," said Moe."Before you know it, we have dozens of additional cases."

As for the re-opening of schools, there have been some isolated cases involving students and staff at schools. Dr. Shahab noted six schools have had a single case each. Overall, he said the re-opening of schools is going smoothly. 

Moe said so far they had seen no evidence of spread of the virus within schools, and said the protocols put in place in schools are working quite well.

Hwever, if there are more cases in the community, it "stood to reason that some of those cases are going to be students and teachers, and that is how the virus will enter our schools." 

Dr. Shahab said schools are a reflection of the community and whenever community transmission goes up there is higher risk. But overall in Saskatchewan "our active case numbers remain low," he said. 

Overall, he said Saskatchewan schools have started on a strong footing and hoped that would continue, saying "it's a marathon not a sprint."  

Dr. Shahab also spoke on the concerns in other parts of the country about young people socializing and increasing transmission of COVID-19.

But he noted "we haven't seen that in Saskatchewan to that extent." He gave a shoutout to young people in the province who "really seem to be following the guidelines and being very judicious in terms of socializing."  

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