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USask professor says public, government must consider positives of extending some COVID-19 measures

Click to play video: 'USask professor says public, government must consider positives of extending some COVID-19 measures' USask professor says public, government must consider positives of extending some COVID-19 measures
WATCH: Health officials have preached that receiving a first COVID-19 shot reduces the likelihood of getting sick or dying, but a community health expert says Saskatchewan’s reopen plan could do more to accommodate people with weaker immune systems – Jun 10, 2021

The provincial government’s data on the severity of Saskatchewan COVID-19 cases looks promising.

Health officials and political leaders have asked the public to receive their first shot to reduce the likelihood of getting sick or dying.

The health minister and chief medical health officer touted the province’s vaccine uptake and what it has done to protect people.

Click to play video: '‘Overwhelming majority’ of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan in May weren’t vaccinated: Merriman' ‘Overwhelming majority’ of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan in May weren’t vaccinated: Merriman
‘Overwhelming majority’ of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan in May weren’t vaccinated: Merriman – Jun 8, 2021

As of June 9, about 65 per cent of people 12 and older have received at least one shot.

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The figures for May show vaccinations are protecting people from serious outcomes.

Dr. Saqib Shahab presented Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 numbers for last month during a June 8 press conference.

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

May saw just short of 5,296 new cases, but only eight per cent (427) of them came from people who had reached a three-week period after receiving their first dose.

About 191 people were admitted to hospital because of the disease, with less than 20 per cent (36) of those being vaccinated for more than three weeks.

Of the 46 intensive care unit (ICU) patients, six had received the full benefit of the first shot.

But while the number of people who have received their first dose continues to rise, there is concern about loosened measures for those with underlying health conditions.

There were 28 COVID-19 deaths in May and seven people had been vaccinated for more than three weeks when they died.

Read more: Saskatchewan lowers age to 55+ for second COVID-19 vaccine shots

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The slide Dr. Shahab used in the presentation said all of those seven were older than 60 and almost all of them had other medical concerns.

A University of Saskatchewan public health expert believes the province’s reopen plan could do more to accommodate people with weaker immune systems.

“This is why at a federal level and internationally, more people are trying to include other elements in their reopen strategy,” Dr. Cory Neudorf added, saying the province could take other considerations when setting the threshold for Step 3 of its reopening roadmap.

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Merriman says Saskatchewan ‘not looking at’ COVID-19 vaccine incentive programs – Jun 8, 2021

Some of those elements include the number of new cases, hospitalizations and how many second doses are in arms.

Shahab noted that as the sample size becomes smaller, like the amount of deaths in the month compared to the number of cases, the proportion could be distorted.

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Neudorf stated that the public should consider what loosened restrictions mean for those with weaker immune or respiratory systems.

“Until we get the entire population fully protected and bring those case numbers down dramatically, we’re still putting other members of the community at risk,” he said.

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

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health said although masking will not be required under the province’s updated Step 3 protocols, people may still opt to wear masks “based on their own risk assessment and comfort level depending on the circumstances.”

The Saskatchewan government said the earliest Step 3, which sees the removal of all public health measures, could start is July 11 and is dependent on 70 per cent of people older than 12 receiving their first shot.

“Masking requirements may also still be in effect in certain workplaces at the discretion of owners or operators,” the ministry said in a statement to Global News.

“Health-care and long-term care facilities may also have requirements as determined by infection control needs or in case of community or facility outbreaks.”

The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency said it is advising its patients to take all preventable measures to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, including proper hygiene, wearing a mask and social distancing.

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The agency is also recommending all its patients get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Although patients on active cancer treatment may develop a low immune response to the vaccine compared to healthy individuals, the vaccine still offers protection to those who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection,” the agency said in a statement to Global News.

The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency said all its patients should get their second shot as close to the recommended interval between shots as possible.

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