COVID-19 in Sask: 3 more deaths and 299 new cases, including 72 at Saskatoon Correctional Centre
As of Thursday, there will be no new admissions to Saskatoon Correctional
Saskatchewan reported 299 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. Three residents who tested positive for the virus have died — a person in Saskatoon in their 70s, and two in the 80 and over age group in the northwest zone.
There have now been a total of 40 deaths in the province due to COVID-19.
Of the cases announced Thursday, 72 are from the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, including 68 detainees and four staff.
Those numbers are a sharp increase from a week ago. As of Nov. 21, only one inmate and one staff member at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19.
There are now 85 known active cases among detainees and staff at Saskatoon Correctional Centre.
The province says corrections officials are working with public health on measures to reduce the spread within the Saskatoon facility and within the correctional system. Those measures will include ongoing testing of detainees and staff at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.
All new admissions to provincial correctional centres will be tested for COVID-19 starting early next week. New admissions will continue to be quarantined for 14 days.
"Given that we tested a large amount of people and we had such a high number of cases come back, we are going to do a large amount of testing to get a better picture of what's happening in these facilities so that we can manage it better," said Noel Busse, executive director of communications for the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety, during a media conference call Thursday.
The province said Corrections is instituting mandatory continuous masking for detainees across all provincial correctional facilities.
Employees at correctional centres have been masked up since the summer, according to the province. But masks have not been available to all detainees.
"Under the previous health order, it wasn't mandatory for [detainees] to wear masks in the common areas," which would be considered "clean units," said Busse.
"Everybody in those units would have been through the 14-day assessment unit. They weren't they were considered public areas."
As of Thursday, there will be no new admissions to Saskatoon Correctional Centre.
The province says remanded and sentenced detainees are being redirected to Regina and Prince Albert correctional centres.
There are currently no active cases at Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert. The Regina Correctional Centre has two cases among staff and one case involving an inmate, and there is one active case among staff at the Prince Albert Correctional Centre.
'From zero to 100 in about 4 days'
The union that speaks for staff at the jail says that it wants the province to offer workers "optional accommodation" because of the high risk they now face at the facility.
"No one wants to carry this infection outside of the correctional centre," said Glenn Billingsley, a labour relations officer with the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU).
"We want to keep it contained and manage the best we can within the facility."
Billingsley said the COVID-19 numbers at the jail exploded over four days, with one inmate and three staff testing positive on Saturday.
"We went from zero to 100 in about four days," he said.
All of the estimated 200 staff at the jail are now getting tested and Billingsley expects the number of known positive cases to climb by Friday.
The seven-day average of daily new cases in Saskatchewan as of Thursday is 243 per day — 20.1 new cases per population of 100,000.
Of the 7,362 total reported cases in the province, 3,146 are considered active.
Eleven of the new cases are located in the far northwest, four are in the far north central, 16 are in the far northeast, 17 are in the northwest, 34 are in the north central, three are in the northeast, 125 are in the Saskatoon area, four are in the central west, six are in the central east, 44 are in the Regina area, seven are in the southwest, 12 are in the south central and eight are in the southeast zone.
The locations of eight of the new cases are still pending.
There are 108 people in hospital with COVID-19, 90 of whom are receiving in-patient care. One person is in the far north west, eight are in the northwest, eight are in the north central, one is in the northeast, 34 are in Saskatoon, two are in the central east, 16 are in Regina, one is in the southwest and 19 are in the southeast zones.
Eighteen people are currently in intensive care, with one in the northwest, one in the north central, 10 in Saskatoon, two in the southwest and four in Regina.
Sports competition is suspended and gatherings at restaurants are being further limited under new COVID-19 restrictions announced by Saskatchewan on Wednesday.
Limits on private gatherings like weddings and funerals, along with places of worship, will also be introduced.
Starting 12:01 a.m. CST on Friday, no more than four people will be allowed to sit together at a table at a restaurant, and tables will need to be separated by three metres unless there are "impermeable barriers" between them, in which case they can be placed two metres apart.
Restaurants will also need to keep information about guests or patrons.
All team sports and group activities are suspended, but athletes and dancers 18 years old and under may keep practising in groups of eight or fewer if they use masks and practise physical distancing. Fitness activities in groups of eight or less are still allowed, with conditions.
All places of worship must reduce capacity to 30 people, and no food or drink can be served. Mandatory non-medical masking is being extended to apply to all students, employees and visitors at schools.
All employees and visitors in common areas in businesses and workplaces, even where the public does not have access, also have to wear a mask.
All residents, employees and visitors in all common areas in provincial and municipal correctional facilities will also have to wear a mask.
Capacity will be restricted to 30 people at casinos, bingo halls, arenas, live theatres, movie theatres, performing arts venues and other facilities that currently have a capacity of 150 people.
Indoor gatherings such as banquets, weddings, funerals, conferences will also have a limit of 30 people, and food and beverage service will be prohibited.
The limit for private indoor gatherings will remain at five but the province said "gatherings of any size beyond your immediate household are strongly discouraged at this time."
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With files from Alicia Bridges and Dan Zakreski