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Dr. Shahab urges vaccination, masking as Saskatchewan gets set for back-to-school

The Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit reports 146 active cases of COVID-19 within its jurisdiction on Aug. 24, 2022. ryr

As COVID-19 infections increase in Saskatchewan, the province may look at the expansion of booster eligibility as well as going back to weekly reporting of COVID-19 numbers this fall.

Between July 17 and Aug. 13, Saskatchewan reported 1,524 new cases and 27 COVID-related deaths. Test positivity, outbreak and hospital/ICU admissions have all increased over the last month, and with students heading back to school in just a matter of days, numbers are likely to continue to go up.

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Dr. Saqib Shahab, the chief medical health officer in the province, said it may be time to mask-up again in Saskatchewan.

“If you’re in a crowded place with lots of people you don’t know, it’s a good idea to wear a mask and that’s going to be increasingly important in the fall,” Shahab said.

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On top of considering masks, Shahab is urging all Saskatchewan residents to get up-to-date with the vaccine – a fourth booster is now available for people 18 and older.

Click to play video: 'Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter'
Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter

“I’m really happy we have had a big response from the third dose and fourth dose for those 50 and older, because that is the highest-risk population for hospitalization,” he said.

“But certainly right now, two doses is not enough. Anyone who is 12 and older should have that first booster and getting that right now will reduce community transmission.”

Currently, fewer than half of those eligible have had one booster and only 43 per cent of school-age children have two COVID vaccine doses, he added.

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As fall approaches, Shahab said they will look at a third booster shot – or fifth dose – as vaccines become more readily available.

“We still don’t know the volumes and timelines… but as it becomes available later in the fall our fifth dose or third booster will start with long-term care.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Saskatchewan reports 1,524 new cases, 27 new deaths'
COVID-19: Saskatchewan reports 1,524 new cases, 27 new deaths

On top of a push for people to get vaccinated into the fall, another change may happen when it comes to monthly COVID-19 reports.

Saskatchewan moved to monthly COVID-19 reports during the summer, after previously having daily, then weekly reports throughout the pandemic.

Shahab said the move to monthly number reports was due to a number of factors including staff on holidays as well as an increased effort to report other diseases. However, SHA may look at changing the frequency of reports in the coming months.

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“As we go into the fall, we will be looking at how frequently the report should be issued. It may be more frequent than a monthly report but maybe not a weekly report,” Shahab explained, noting the monthly report was very effective at seeing trends.

“We don’t see a lot of fluctuation on a week-to-week bases, but over two to four weeks we see the trend changing and a lot of these surges can last eight to 12 weeks so I think even the monthly report gives us a good indicator of what all of us should plan for.”

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