Saskatchewan

Experts say second widespread lockdown not likely in Sask., but vigilance needed to prevent second wave

Dr. Anne Huang says the province should mandate masks and have an education campaign.

Dr. Anne Huang says the province should mandate masks and have an education campaign

A former deputy medical health officer said the province should mandate the use of masks in indoor public spaces after a large increase of cases in Saskatchewan. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Experts say a second widespread lockdown is unlikely in Saskatchewan, but that more things should be done to combat increasing COVID-19 cases and COVID fatigue. 

Saskatchewan reported 106 new cases over the Thanksgiving long weekend and 34 new cases on Tuesday. The Thanksgiving weekend included the highest single-day increase since July 29. 

The sheer number of cases being reported daily was unexpected, according to both Dr. Anne Huang and Dr. Joseph Blondeau. Huang is the former deputy medical health officer for Saskatchewan. Blondeau is the head of clinical microbiology at Royal University Hospital and teaches about infectious diseases at the University of Saskatchewan. 

"We had lowered the transmissions in our community in Saskatchewan. So it's disappointing to be faced with this anticipated outbreak," Huang said. "I am worried because this could potentially be the start of the second wave in Saskatchewan." 

Two experts say the increase in cases in Saskatchewan was not expected and went well above what was anticipated for the fall. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Blondeau said a fall increase was expected, but not like this. He said the province should be collectively concerned after the Thanksgiving weekend. 

"Given the fact that this was a holiday weekend, I think that our expectation is that we may see another increase in cases over the next couple of weeks."

Blondeau said the high cases lately could be just be from the outbreaks or could last longer. 

"That I think, while unfortunate, is a perfect opportunity to remind us all just how easy it is to spread this virus when we let our guard down, when we're not paying attention to the types of things that are important to prevent spread."

Huang and Blondeau both say a second widespread lockdown in the province is unlikely. Huang said that's mainly because of the view that businesses will suffer. 

"It's important that the narrative be changed by the officials so that they are not creating this false dichotomy that is public health measures versus economic, because if we don't control them, well, eventually it affects the economy," Huang said. 

"The best thing is to do what we can and to do as much as we can right now."

Officials should combat COVID-19 fatigue with education: Huang

Huang said COVID-19 fatigue is a real thing and the general public needs support.

"We need support and encouragement when it comes to us being fatigued and feeling that what we've done has made a difference," she said. "It's important that the health officials sort of acknowledge what we've done and what we have achieved so far."

Public health officials should educate the general public with the latest science behind COVID-19 transmission, she said. 

"The better we adhere to these public health measures, the less cases we're going to see."

The latest science says droplets containing COVID-19 can linger in the air and be carried around an enclosed room, Huang said. 

"Physical distancing alone will not fully protect you in situations where you have shared airspace with an infected individual," she said. 

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Huang said the province should mandate mandatory masks in all public indoor spaces, even when physical distancing can be maintained.

"We should spend much less time and emphasis on cleaning surfaces now and spend more time and emphasis on the need to use facemasks in any crowded setting, whether indoor or outdoor," Huang said. "I haven't seen that updated scientific guidance from our health official, even though that's being available now for several months."

For people feeling COVID fatigue, Huang suggests stepping out into nature, whether out of the city or in an urban park. 

"We know that people who spend time in nature actually have better health, both mental health and longer term physical health," she said. "Even when the weather gets cold we could still find outdoor space to walk and take a break from it and that's safe." 

For people who feel like relaxing the measures they've been taking, Huang said it's important to remember the longer term impact on the economy. 

Huang said the governments are basically borrowing from the future so people can live, eat, survive through the pandemic, but eventually the governments will need to get that money back through taxes. 

"This is the pandemic of our century and hopefully this is the only pandemic of the century," Huang said.  

With files from Blue Sky

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