The Saskatchewan government reported a surge in new coronavirus cases in the province on Thursday.
Health officials said there were 42 new cases in the daily update, with the overall total for the province growing to 923 since the first case was reported in March.
Thirty-one of the new cases are in the south region, six are in the central region, four are in the Saskatoon region and one is in the north, according to a press release.
“The vast majority of the new cases are related to a growing outbreak in a number of Hutterite communities and other neighbouring communities in southwest and west-central Saskatchewan,” Rural and Remote Health Minister Warren Kaeding said.
“The affected areas include the following (rural municipalities) and all communities, including Hutterite communities within those RMS, the RMSs of Maple Creek, of Auvergne, Bigger, Eagle Creek. Grandview. Harris, Kellross, Lac Pelletier, Newcombe, Perdue, Pleasant Valley, Prairiedale and Tramping Lake. The affected area also includes the city of Swift Current.
“We’d all hoped that we were through the most difficult phase of COVID-19 and with everything reopening, no one wants to take a step backward but there is now an increased risk in southwestern and west-central Saskatchewan.”
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) declared a COVID-19 outbreak in two Hutterite communities in the RM of Maple Creek on June 17 and it’s still ongoing.
“The SHA is working closely with Hutterian Safety Council, local moderate leadership, local municipalities and the business community to control the further spread of the virus. Of course, this includes aggressive testing and contact tracing, which has detected these positive cases and will likely find many more in the days ahead,” Kaeding said.
“They’ve done a lot of their own limitations… I have talked to community leadership, and they certainly appreciate the efforts that Hutterites are doing to minimize the risk to outside of their communities and into the surrounding communities.”
On Wednesday, the SHA announced there was an “emergent situation” in the southwest and west-central areas of the province. They added this overall increased level of COVID-19 activity means there is an increased risk of transmission to the public in this part of Saskatchewan.
“While the surge of cases is concerning, we should recognize that we are seeing a surge because we’re seeing an active case finding and aggressive testing in the area. You cannot contain what you cannot see,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said on Thursday.
“This is why efforts have scaled up in the areas with testing. So it’s now working longer hours and more days. We’ve also been deploying testing directly to affected areas whenever and wherever it’s needed to lower barriers to access,” Livingstone added.
“Locally, plans are in place to enhance testing with additional resources from both the community as well as deploying staff from other areas of the province.”
At this point, Kaeding said the government is not issuing any new public health orders or ordering any closures specific to the area.
“The committee leadership in (northwest Saskatchewan) had almost uniformly asked for these restrictions to be put into place and we’ve certainly been having these discussions with the… Hutterite Safety Council, with Hutterite leadership, with community leadership in the area. And right now, they haven’t deemed that to be necessary,” Kaeding said.
As of Wednesday, Livingstone said one of their medical health officers in northern Saskatchewan shared they no longer have active cases associated with that significant COVID-19 situation in the northwest of the province.
“While we know there’s always areas that we can improve, there continue to be risks regardless of location across this province. The northwest situation tells us that we can fight this virus successfully if we work together with communities, health care practitioners and the citizens of this province,” Livingstone said on Thursday.
In the province, 11 people are currently in hospital — nine are receiving in-patient care and two are in intensive care.
Three more people have recovered, bringing total recoveries to 794.
There was a jump of active cases in the province from 75 to 114 day-over-day, health officials said. Active cases are total cases less recoveries and deaths.
There have been 15 COVID-19-related deaths in Saskatchewan.
To date, over 78,850 tests have been carried out in the province.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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