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Proceed with caution: Saskatchewan epidemiologist on recent decline of new COVID-19 cases

Click to play video: 'Proceed with caution: Saskatchewan epidemiologist on recent decline of new COVID-19 cases' Proceed with caution: Saskatchewan epidemiologist on recent decline of new COVID-19 cases
WATCH: The June 7 COVID update for Saskatchewan shows the number of new cases continues to drop – Jun 7, 2021

Saskatchewan has recently seen a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases, but Saskatoon-based epidemiologist Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine says caution is still the best way to proceed.

The province reported 68 new cases on Monday, bringing the seven-day average to 97 or 7.9 per 100,000 people which is the lowest active case total since Nov. 8, 2020.

“We are not out of the woods yet, we are not in the clear,” Muhajarine said. “We want to get ahead of the virus, not ahead of ourselves.”

Read more: Saskatchewan sets vaccination threshold to lift all public health measures

Despite his concerns, Muhajarine said he is encouraged with the low number of new cases and attributes it two things — the number of people vaccinated and the nice weather.

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“We are talking about the ability of the vaccine to work miracles, almost, in the sense of actually cutting down transmission, but also protecting people from serious COVID consequences, hospitalization and so on,” Muhajarine said.

“Outdoor transmission is very much lower than indoor transmission. [People] are not gathering in large numbers with people they don’t live with. I think all of those factors are really working together to bring the numbers down.”

Currently, in Step 1 of Saskatchewan’s reopening roadmap, the province is less than two weeks away from entering Step 2.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan sets vaccination threshold to lift all public health measures' Saskatchewan sets vaccination threshold to lift all public health measures
Saskatchewan sets vaccination threshold to lift all public health measures – Jun 2, 2021

Included in Step 2, retail and personal care services will have no capacity thresholds while restaurants and bars will have limitations surrounding table capacity.

If Saskatchewan’s plan stays on track and 70 per cent of the population aged 12 and older receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, the province could remove all public health measures as early as July 11. That includes lifting mandates surrounding masks.

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“It’s really up to Saskatchewan people and how many of us make the choice to protect ourselves and those around us and get vaccinated,” Premier Scott Moe said in a statement this past Tuesday.

“Because that’s really what this is all about. The goal isn’t just to meet some target number we have set. The goal is to protect Saskatchewan people, so we can re-open safely.”

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatchewan reopening won’t be easy for everyone, mental health advocate says

It’s something Muhajarine said lifting all restrictions would be risky, especially when it comes to dropping the mask.

“I don’t think on July 11 we will get to the point of enough people being fully vaccinated to lose the masks and leave it up to people based on their own individual risk assessment,” Muhajarine said.

“We have moved beyond the early understanding that it protects others, but not you…if you wear a mask, it will protect you.”

Muhajarine said he would be comfortable about removing the mask mandate when the province’s seven-day average reaches about three.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe outlines roadmap for provincial reopening Steps 2 and 3' Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe outlines roadmap for provincial reopening Steps 2 and 3
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe outlines roadmap for provincial reopening Steps 2 and 3 – Jun 1, 2021

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