A shutdown of some Saskatchewan sectors is looming if daily COVID-19 cases continue to rise, says the province’s chief medical health officer.
“Those are not easy decisions for any jurisdiction to have to do that. Livelihoods are affected, but we are evaluating the impact (new cases) have,” Dr. Saqib Shahab said.
In the past week, new cases in Saskatchewan have reached 30 to 40 a day, largely driven by those aged 15 to 39, said Shahab. The week prior, daily cases averaged 19 a day.
“The positive test rate has been less than one per cent, but it is now hovering around two per cent for 15 to 39 year olds, which is concerning and we don’t want to get any higher,” Shahab said.
The threshold in which more restrictions would be enforced is if Saskatchewan reaches 60 cases a day, over several days. That is about five cases per 100,000 people.
“That is a threshold we really don’t want to reach,” Shahab said. “It would force us to think what else could we do beyond what we’ve done already to slow things down.”
The same thresholds are being used by jurisdictions across Canada, the U.S. and Europe to enforce stricter measures, including economic shutdowns, said Shahab.
“No one wants to be there,” he said.
Added restrictions in Saskatchewan would depend on where the cases are, who is affected and how the virus is spreading.
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“Some general recommendations could be slowing down specific sectors, earlier closures or going to 50 per cent capacity like the re-open plan,” Shahab said.
Additionally, the province would enforce the closure of businesses if case numbers rise to more than 100 new cases a day, for several days, which is 10 cases per 100,000 people.
“Gathering sizes would come down to a smaller number to less than 10 or five,” Shahab said. “Where in some cases, sectors that were late to reopen – bars and restaurants, gyms – unfortunately, do have to close.”
Shahab said the restrictions would be necessary to prevent the health care system from overburdening.
“That’s when you start seeing pressures on the health system, and the hospital system,” Shahab said. “That’s when unfortunately you need to start then to save the health system, have tighter measures which we all know we have taken.”
He said further cases could be prevented by reducing our contacts. Many new cases have been linked to social gatherings like birthday parties, weddings and places of worship.
“We really need to look at what we’re doing at work and what we’re doing when we’re going out and about. We need to slow things down and bring our number of contacts down.”
According to Shahab, most people who have contracted the virus in Saskatchewan have around eight contacts, which, he said, “is a bit high.”
“It was three to four before. Some cases have up to 200 contacts.”
Moving forward, he is encouraging people to stick to the basics: wear a mask, have good hand hygiene and practice physical distancing.
“We have had a great summer. But the great outdoor Saskatchewan summer is over, and we can’t bring the party inside.”