Here is a summary of highlights from the daily news conference involving Premier Scott Moe and provincial chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
The province reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, one in the North region and the other in Saskatoon. The number of active cases is down to 61.
Premier Moe called it “good news because we are now well into Phase 2 of our Re-Open Saskatchewan and we are moving towards Phase 3 on June 8.”
However he also noted that this week “we were reminded that the risk has not gone away,” citing the three additional deaths from COVID-19 as well as the community outbreak in Saskatoon He called it a reminder to remain vigilant, to maintain physical distancing, wash your hands and follow public health orders. “We still need to be so very careful”, Moe said.
Dr. Shahab said that so far Phase 2 “appears to be successful, and that’s primarily because of all the lessons learned when essential services continued to operate and when Phase 1 reopened.”
He also urged the public to consider how they would operate when Phase 3 reopens, because “that’s going to be a different environment.”
Northwest reopening might happen next week
Moe said that active cases in the far north are down to 46. That is down from 156 on May 10. If this trend continues “we are quite hopeful that by next week we will be able to start looking at removing the travel restrictions in northwestern Saskatchewan.”
This would only be done in consultation with community leaders which is occurring weekly, said Moe.
Questions about fines
A number of questions were posed about the Saskatoon family gathering and contact investigation of 60 people who attended. Dr. Shahab confirmed that there were potentially up to four cases of COVID-19 confirmed through that contact investigation.
“We need to be thoughtful when we have gatherings of any size,” said Dr. Shahab.
The premier was asked whether fines should have been levied in connectuion to those incidents. The indication from officials is that their preference was towards “education” of the public, with fines a last resort.
“The goal of the public health orders is to have compliance with the public health orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Premier Moe. “It’s not to fine anyone.”
He also noted that when fines have been issued, those only came after “great outreach” with respect to education and warnings.
Transparency an issue again
Details were not provided about the location of the gathering in Saskatoon, and officials were later asked about why there was a “high level of secrecy from the government of Saskatchewan” about locations of deaths as well as the location of the Saskatoon incident.
Dr. Shahab responded that the risk from the virus remained the same across the province.
”There is no value from a public health perspective or a public risk assessment perspective about knowing where a person lived.”
Dr. Shahab also pointed to the need to respect the privacy of individuals and families of those hospitalized or who have passed away.