Saskatchewan

Recapping Sask.'s climb to 10K total COVID-19 cases

Saskatchewan is now reporting more than 10,000 total cases of COVID-19 recorded in the province. Here's a recap of how the province reached Sunday's grim milestone.

Active cases increase over 400 per cent, hospitalizations increase over 300 per cent in last 30 days

Saskatchewan is now reporting over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 after Sunday's update. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan is now reporting more than 10,000 total cases of COVID-19. 

In Sunday's update, there were 415 new cases reported in Saskatchewan, bumping the province to 10,139 total cases. 

The update said there were 4,550 active cases of COVID-19, meaning nearly 45 per cent of the province's total cases are active.

As of Sunday the seven-day average for new cases stood at 272. 

Here's a recap of how the province reached Sunday's grim milestone and some of the measures that have been tried here.

The early days

Saskatchewan reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 12, in a person in their 60s who had recently travelled to Egypt. 

On March 13 the province reported its second presumptive case of COVID-19 and announced the first in a series of wide range of restrictions, limiting gathering and event sizes and requiring those who recently travelled to self-isolate.

Less than a week later schools closed indefinitely

On March 18, the province declared a state of emergency and by the end of the month the province recorded its first deaths related to COVID-19 and essentially locked down. 

When schools closed in March, no date was set for when students would return to in-class learning. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

By March 30, there were 176 cases of COVID-19 recorded in Saskatchewan. By mid-April Premier Scott Moe began hinting at a gradual lifting of restrictions in the province.

In April the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan was announced and restrictions started to gradually lift. 

But at the end of April, all non-critical travel was restricted into and out of the Northern Saskatchewan Administrative District, which covers nearly half of the province, due to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases in the La Loche-region. 

Into the summer, colonies of Hutterites throughout Saskatchewan and the prairies began to report cases of COVID-19. Testing was made widely available and drive-thru testing sites opened in Regina and Saskatoon.

The second wave

By the start of September, COVID-19 cases in Hutterite colonies and in the northwest had subsided, the Safe Schools Plan was in place and students were preparing to return to their classrooms — whatever that looked like — for a new school year.

On Sept. 10, the province was reporting a total of 1,676 cases of COVID-19 in the province. At the time there were 24 deaths. 

Church meetings were held at the Full Gospel Outreach Centre between Sept. 14 and Oct. 4 in Prince Albert. Collectively they were declared a multi-jurisdictional superspreader event associated with dozens of cases throughout the province.

By the end of September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the entire country was at a crossroads with the COVID-19 pandemic and had reached a "tipping point." 

Oct. 5 was the last day the province reported single digit new cases in a day, when nine were announced. The province warned travelers to think twice before travelling this winter, especially internationally, that day.

About a week later the province announced measures restricting gathering sizes after reporting 66 new cases, the largest single-day case increase in roughly three months. 

Bars and nightclubs would eventually come under fire, with dozens of cases in the province tied to events hosted in those venues. 

Saskatchewan, at the end of the month, was reporting the fourth-highest per capita rate of COVID-19 in Canada. 

Sask.'s deadliest month

Saskatchewan introduced a mandatory mask mandate in its three major cities — Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert — on Nov. 3.

That day there were 3,373 total reported cases, 842 active cases of COVID-19, 28 people in hospital and 24 people dead after testing positive for the virus in the province. 

The province's mask mandate was expanded. More gathering-size restrictions and some limitations on business operations were introduced to reduce the spread of the virus.

But between Nov. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 6, more than 30 deaths were recorded and the provincial total now sits at 59. For the third time since the pandemic started, four deaths were reported in a single day on Sunday. 

The Saskatoon region has the most number of active cases with 1,476 as of Sunday. (Government of Saskatchewan)

As of Sunday, the province's total reported cases had increased 179 per cent, while hospitalizations increased nearly 310 per cent and active cases skyrocketed nearly 400 per cent over the previous month. 

The province is currently reporting COVID-19 outbreaks on its website in schools, day cares, long-term care facilities, workplaces, businesses, places of worship, health centres and recently issued an increased exposure alert after an incident in Meadow Lake.

Dr. Ibrahim Khan, Saskatchewan's regional medical officer with Indigenous Services Canada, told CBC News that Indigenous communities here are now entering an intense phase of their fight against COVID-19. 

Frontline workers and the Saskatchewan Health Authority recently began raising concerns about how well the provincial healthcare system can hold up.

"​​​​COVID-19 is everywhere in Saskatchewan," the exposure alert published on Sunday said.

What's ahead now? 

Premier Scott Moe previously said there was a chance gathering sizes could be increased ahead of Christmas but that won't happen for at least another week. 

On Wednesday, Saskatchewan chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said people should only travel inter-provincially for essential reasons.

Shahab shared up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases and their trajectory. He did not commit to recommending rules be adjusted for Christmas.

He said the province would "pay the price" in January if it eased restrictions over the holidays.

Shahab said he would be comfortable with between 60-120 new cases of COVID-19 a day, as those figures would not overwhelm the health system.

In the United Kingdom, vaccine rollouts could happen in a matter of days. It was announced on Sunday that COVID-19 vaccines could ship to Canada within 24 hours of being approved, an executive with BioNTech told CBC. 

An independent committee tasked with deciding who in Canada would be the first to get vaccinated decided the initial, limited quantities of vaccine doses should be reserved for those who are most at risk of contracting the virus and developing severe symptoms. 

About six million doses of the vaccine would be made available in Canada in the first three months of 2021. That should serve about three million people, as two doses of that vaccine is required. 

We're looking for Saskatchewan residents to share how COVID-19 has impacted their lives. (CBC News Graphics)

CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eneas

Reporter

Bryan Eneas is a journalist from the Penticton Indian Band currently based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he reported in central and northern Saskatchewan. Send news tips to Bryan.Eneas@cbc.ca.

With files from Adam Hunter, John Paul Trasker, Raisa Patel, Guy Quenneville, Morgan Modjeski

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