Premier Moe warns against 'pandemic fatigue,' says increase in cases won't affect reopening plan
NDP points to rise in cases linked to community transmission as 'a big worry'
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe warned people in the province not to let their guard down as COVID-19 cases numbers continue to rise
"I know that we are all suffering with some level of pandemic fatigue," Moe said Monday. "Most of us have probably been a little less careful as of late. I don't think it's any cause for alarm just yet but it's a clear reminder that the risk of COVID-19 is still here."
On Monday, the province reported 31 new cases, for a total of 307 active cases in all.
"Let's continue to avoid large gatherings. Don't have too many close contacts outside your virtual household. Continue to wash and sanitize your hands and when physical distancing isn't possible — put on a mask."
Moe said most of the new cases and the majority of the active cases are linked to outbreaks on Hutterite colonies.
He said public health officials would be travelling to colonies to ensure public health measures are being followed. Moe indicated that communities have imposed travel restrictions on residents and are complying with provincial measures.
Community transmission 'a big worry': NDP
The number of COVID-19 cases without known links has increased in recent days in Saskatchewan.
Last week, there had been 167 cases of community transmission since March. There are now 288 — an increase of 121 in seven days.
Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said there are five to 10 cases without known links every few days. Shahab some known exposure settings are "diverse" and some recent cases are linked to inter-provincial travel.
He said people should keep their "bubble" to 15 people or less to try and limit who they come in close contact with.
Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili wants the provincial government to provide clearer messaging on how it will impose restrictions if COVID-19 cases continue rising.
"I really want to emphasize this is something the government needs to signal to people, if we're going to at some point potentially have increased restrictions, they know what the thresholds are ... and what is the line we need to cross," Meili said Monday.
He said the province has not indicated if its reopening plan would be affected by a certain number of COVID-19 cases or cases linked to community transmission.
Meili called the community transmission cases "a big worry."
"What are the thresholds for moving back some of these openings? What are the proper guidelines for schools? What are the points at which we talk about mandatory masks? This government needs to stop just assuming everything's fine, assuming the job is done, not talking about what it is they will do," Meili said.
Moe cautioned against linking the jump in cases to the government's Re-open Saskatchewan plan.
"Many of the numbers that we are seeing over the course of the last number of days are not related to the Re-open Saskatchewan plan, are not related to businesses being open across this province," Moe said.
He said the government is "not considering" rolling back aspects of its plan.
"There are other things that we can do should we need to, and I don't believe we're at that point in time yet."
Mask use could be additional measure
Among the other things the government could do, Moe mentioned mask use as an additional measure.
"There are a number of things we can do that have a much lower impact on businesses, a much lower impact on many of the day-to-day activities that we enjoy," Moe said.
He said conversations on appropriate mask use are happening all over the world at the moment.
Shahab said retail environments are not locations where the virus has spread, but he said people should wear a mask while indoors to provide an added layer of protection.
Meili said one thing the province should have been doing was securing masks for the general public, something he said he had asked for in April.
"There has been not a single finger lifted to try and get us to the point where masks are widely available and this to me is a complete failure."
School return details to be released next week
Meili also questioned the lack of details to this point on the province's measures to keep schools safe this fall.
He called the plan "completely inadequate."
"It's really quite dangerous and scary and for the government to have no plan for how to support physical distancing, how to support PPE and sanitation within schools. It is absolutely a failure."
Moe said the government would be announcing details of the back-to-school plan next week. He said the school divisions have submitted their plans.
Moe said the government wants to have a "safe plan" for students and staff. He said mechanisms will be in place to keep schools safe in case a particular community is affected by COVID-19.
Shahab said people should not assume schools are higher risk in reopening because they are opening after other businesses and workplaces have opened. He said it was just timing of the reopening happening in spring and summer.
He said mask use "does not apply to younger children," and while it has shown benefit in indoor settings, it won't necessarily be used in schools.
In June, the government announced K-12 students would return to in-classroom learning in September.