Nine new cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in Saskatchewan as the province’s health authority confirms PPE has gone missing from its facilities.
The government said there are now 104 confirmed cases in the province.
Six people have now been hospitalized — three in Regina, two in Saskatoon and one in the north. Two people are in the ICU — one each in Regina and Saskatoon.
More cases have been reported in northern Saskatchewan.
There are three confirmed cases in the far north and 13 in the north. This is the first report the north has been split into two regions. Three cases were reported in the north on Thursday.
Six cases are due to local transmission — two each in Regina, Saskatoon, and the central region — health officials reported, with the rest travel-related.
Three people have recovered, the government reported.
Tests have been carried out on 7,360 people, with results pending in 108 tests.
Of concern to health authorities is the disappearance of PPE from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) facilities.
SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said a memo was sent out to all staff addressing the issue, which he said involves gowns, masks and gloves.
“Before the memo came out, we looked at the last few weeks of ordering and distribution of supplies within the SHA and we were receiving orders for four to five times our normal supplies for PPE,” Livingstone said.
“What we have done is we have now centrally located all our supplies, we’ve put supplies under lock and key, we no longer have supply carts sitting there… and we’re investigating the losses.”
Livingstone said it is too soon to know who took the PPEs, but did point a finger at staff.
“I think the PPEs are disappearing for lots of reasons. I think, I know for a fact that staff are involved, it could be patients, it could be physicians, it could be anybody who comes into our facilities,” Livingstone said.
“In many of our facilities across the province, we have open carts and open cupboards with this type of equipment in it. We don’t have that any longer.”
“But yes, I am saying that people who work for the SHA have removed PPE from our facilities.”
He said the losses are the result of a few staff and other people who work in SHA facilities.
“And for those folks, the memo is very clear — even if it’s fear-based, and I get that, there’s lots of fear out there, there’s fear in the public, there’s fear, of course, in our health care workers,” he said.
“But if that PPE isn’t available when people need it, to properly care for COVID-19 patients, they’re putting people’s lives at risk and that’s why that memo was sent out.”
Livingstone said the vast majority of the people who work at the SHA care about their safety and those they work with.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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