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Coronavirus: Saskatchewan reports first COVID-19 deaths

WATCH: The Saskatchewan government updates the coronavirus situation in the province, including its first two COVID-19 deaths.

The Saskatchewan government is reporting its first two deaths due to complications from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Both were in their 70s.

The deaths happened in different parts of Saskatchewan, but officials have not said where in the province.

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The deaths happened in different parts of Saskatchewan, but officials have not said where in the province.

“This is a sad milestone in our fight against COVID-19, said Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province chief medical health officer.

“What we are seeing is certainly very sad, but not unexpected, because it’s been three weeks or more since we started reporting cases in Saskatchewan.”

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Coronavirus: Saskatchewan reports first COVID-19 deaths
Coronavirus: Saskatchewan reports first COVID-19 deaths

One death was related to travel and Shahab said the second death remains under investigation.

“What we know so far is there was no link to the individual with international travel. There may have been some links elsewhere with family in Saskatchewan or neighbouring provinces, but yes, there was no link to international travel,” Shahab said.

“We are now increasingly seeing cases that have no link to travel. We are seeing a phase where there is more and more community transmission.”

READ MORE: APAS seeks real time data to support Saskatchewan farmers impacted by coronavirus

The news comes as the province reported 20 new COVID-19 cases, bring the number to date in Saskatchewan to 176.

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Five people remain in hospital, with one being treated in an ICU in Regina.

The province said 84 cases are in Saskatoon, 37 in the north, 36 in Regina and 10 in the central region. Another six cases are in the south and three in the far north.

While the majority of the cases are travel-related or the consequence of large gatherings, eight are now the result of local transmission.

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Twenty cases are linked to the Christopher Lake snowmobile rally supper on March 14.

Health officials reported 14 people have recovered.

“As we move along we will continue to see more hospitalizations and deaths, but also a greater number of people who will recover,” Shahab said.

Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer says province was expecting news of deaths due to COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer says province was expecting news of deaths due to COVID-19

Premier Scott Moe reiterated the need for people to observe social distancing measures and to stay home.

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“Today’s sad news is a sobering reminder for us all that COVID-19 is a dangerous and deadly disease,” Moe said.

“We have to keep making efforts to reduce the spread and need to continue to adhere to the measures that are in place.”

Moe said he doesn’t believe the province waited too long to implement those measures.

“Decisions that you make on one day really don’t have likely don’t have an impact for 14 days into the future — before you’re able to see the impact of that decision,” he said.

“We’re about 14 days from today when we first closed our K-12 schools. So much of the impact with respect to self-isolation for travellers came shortly after that, and much of the impact from encouraging people to work from home comes in the last 14 to 17 days.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan changes hours of service regulations for commercial truck drivers

Moe believes the decisions made to date have been appropriate, but said more measures will be introduced if needed.

“We may have to do more in the days ahead, but we are hopeful the decisions we’ve made will start to have an impact in the not too distant future,” Moe said.

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One area where the measures are being felt is at long-term care homes.

No cases have been reported yet at any of these facilities at Shahab believes one reason is the strict measures that were put into place early.

“We already know that several provinces have had outbreaks in long-term care homes and that absolutely is the most vulnerable population,” Shahab said.

“So we have been actually one of the provinces… having significant restrictions on visitations at long-term care homes. It is heartbreaking for families to not be able to visit as frequently as they want to, but it is essential that we keep out family and loved ones safe by staying away for the next little while.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan’s premier stresses on testing efforts as province reports first deaths due to COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan’s premier stresses on testing efforts as province reports first deaths due to COVID-19

Moe said it has been a stressful time for everyone in the province and that supports are in place for anyone who needs it, not just those affected by COVID-19.

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“In addition to our physical health, we all need to make extra efforts to look after our mental health as well,” Moe said.

“I just want to remind everyone that if you are suffering from mental health challenges and stresses at this time, depression or substance abuse, that there are many supports you will be able to access.

“You can call your family physician, you can get in touch with mental health supports in your area of the province and in your community, or you can call the 811 HealthLine and they will put you in touch with the help that you may require.”

 

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.

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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.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.