Officials watching closely after big jump in COVID-19 numbers

56 new cases from Saturday-Monday

It was the biggest case spike seen in the province in a couple of months.

Provincial officials reported 56 new cases of COVID-19 in the province over the past weekend.

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Numbers reported include 31 new cases in Monday’s numbers, 23 from Sunday, and two from Saturday. 

What’s more, for the first time since the pandemic began a major spike in cases is noted in both the southwest and especially the west-central areas. The southwest spike has been ongoing in recent days, but the west-central spike was most noticeable this weekend.

Saturday cases saw one new case from the Central region and one in the South. Sunday’s cases included 13 from the South, five from Saskatoon, three from the Central and two from the Regina area. Monday’s cases included 27 from the Central, including two from Regina, one in Saskatoon and one from the South.

Rural municipalities seeing cases include Maple a Creek, Auvergne, Biggar, Carmichael, Eagle Creek, Harris, Lac Pelletier, Newcombe, Perdue, Kellross and Prairiedale.

The ministry of Health, Sask. Health Authority and Hutterian Safety Council are working together to address this, said health minister Jim Reiter at the news conference. This includes testing and contact tracing has increased in affected communities.

Reiter also noted that the initial outbreaks in Hutterian communities in the R.M. of Maple Creek are now down to a very small number. “These actions do work to bring these outbreaks under control,” said Reiter.

Reiter also unveiled details of plans for Saskatchewan residents to have access to more everyday health services under the beginning of phase 3 of the Sask. Health Authority resumption of services. This includes mental health and addictions supports. Surgical services are also resumed to between 75-85 percent of pre-COVID volume.

Reiter also announced that as of July 14 Saskatchewan will be using a universal testing model for COVID-19 testing. Testing will now be available to anyone who requests it, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. Referrals for testing can be made by contacting Healthline 811 according to a news release.

Regarding the large jump in cases, the province’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said there were eight cases that were “in the community — they are not linked to any other cases.” Public health is following up with a case contact investigation.

There are also another 46 or so cases that are part of specific communal-living settings. The large case numbers are due to active case findings with communities working with Public Health on door-to-door case findings.

Dr. Shahab also confirmed that of the additional Saskatoon cases, none are linked to the one case at the Canadian Brewhouse in Stonebridge that was the subject of last week’s public service advisory.

Dr. Shahab added we should not be relying only on those PSAs, and that people should seek testing and stay home if they have any symptoms. He also noted the cases in Saskatoon and Regina continue to mainly be cases “linked to international travel or travel to other provinces.” There are no clusters of further concern in Saskatoon or Regina to this point.

When asked why this latest spike would not prompt a mandatory mask order, Dr. Shahab emphasized most of these cases were in communal living arrangements. There could well be a recommendation by Public Health for mask use when you are not in your immediate household, but overall Dr. Shahab noted the central and southwest is a large geographical area with a low population.

He said they would want to watch the total number of cases including cases, including cases that are sporadic that aren’t linked to other case-contact investigations, and whether they see transmission happening in settings indoors where people are otherwise complying with the two-metre separations. If they see a signal that transmission is ramping up, “we would have to see what other steps need to be taken, including possibly mask use, possibly rethinking of some of the physical distancing guidelines. But that is something we have to actively track now for the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Shahab.

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