Gathering sizes to be reduced as Saskatchewan coronavirus cases increase

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WATCH: As active coronavirus cases climb in the province, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer is rolling back the limit on private gatherings in homes.

For the eighth day in a row, Saskatchewan has reported a double-digit increase in new coronavirus cases in the province.

Health officials said there were 34 new cases in the daily update, with the overall total for the province growing to 2,174 since the first case was reported in March.

Read more: Father Vachon School in Saskatoon temporarily moves to online learning after coronavirus case

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases in the province this weekend, 140 new cases reported since Friday. While community transmission has been relatively low in Saskatchewan, we are seeing how quickly and easily this can change,” Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“Gatherings are now increasing as a risk as the weather cools. Cases with contact with a known case or mass gathering are increasing from 53 per cent in the first week of October to 70 per cent this past week. Public health contact investigations are also having a harder time confirming the source of transmission because of the larger numbers of contacts that people are having and COVID is now being transmitted province-wide … there’s a case or two in almost every part of the province.”

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“So this is why it’s essential that all residents must increase their vigilance and adhere to public health orders and guidelines in all settings.”

Of the 2,174 total cases in the province to date, 613 have no known exposures and 178 are under investigation by local public health.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Saskatchewan announces reduction of gathering sizes as COVID-19 cases rise' Coronavirus: Saskatchewan announces reduction of gathering sizes as COVID-19 cases rise
Coronavirus: Saskatchewan announces reduction of gathering sizes as COVID-19 cases rise

With the increasing rise in cases throughout the province linked to public and private social gatherings, Shahab is amending the public health order on gathering sizes in private households.

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As of Thursday night — or 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 16 — the maximum allowable gathering size for private gatherings in the home will be 15, according to a press release.

“This (gathering size reduction) will not, at the current time, impact restaurants, licenced establishments and banquet halls, weddings, funerals or religious gatherings, which are required to follow seating and physical distancing guidelines as described in the Re-Open (Saskatchewan) plan,” Shahab said.

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“We are seeing two definite trends. One, of course, is that we are seeing, unfortunately, mass transmission events and that can have significant implications … but we’re also seeing a consistent increase in person-to-person transmission not linked to a large event, but linked to those small intimate gatherings that we have all the time and that’s why we have to address both.

“Community transmission means our provincial risk warrants mask use in public places, especially where you cannot maintain physical distancing reliably. Further reducing gatherings is an additional step we can take right now along with masking, this can help us keep our case numbers low. These are small steps that all of us can and should take to help ensure that our businesses remain open, our schools continue and other activities that promote health and wellness continue. These public health measures work. We have demonstrated that they work as a province.”

“Even with increasing community transmission rates we still have the power to effect change, to flatten that curve, but it means all residents have to do their part to help keep their friends and family safe,” Shahab said in a statement on Tuesday.

Read more: Outbreaks and potential COVID-19 exposures in Saskatchewan for the past 2 weeks

According to the press release, most of the new cases are located in the Regina zone with 11, while there are nine in north central, eight in Saskatoon and four in central west. Officials said the locations of two cases are pending.

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In the province, nine people are currently in hospital with COVID-19 — seven are receiving inpatient care and two are in intensive care.

Eleven more people have recovered, bringing total recoveries to 1,911.

There are currently 238 active cases in the province, health officials said. Active cases are total cases less recoveries and deaths.

There have been 25 COVID-19-related deaths in Saskatchewan.

According to the press release, 2,037 COVID-19 tests were performed on Wednesday in Saskatchewan. To date, 218,959 tests have been carried out in the province.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canada’s top doctor says country has close to 19,000 active COVID-19 cases' Coronavirus: Canada’s top doctor says country has close to 19,000 active COVID-19 cases
Coronavirus: Canada’s top doctor says country has close to 19,000 active COVID-19 cases

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.

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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.

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