Saskatchewan

Opposition says Sask. 'under siege' from COVID, wants modelling made public, new school isolation rules

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili says the provincial government needs to act in the face of COVID-19 records being surpassed daily.

NDP Leader Ryan Meili says government cannot keep COVID projections 'quiet'

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili says he is 'sad and angry' at seeing death rates climb in the province. He is calling on the premier to disclose COVID projections. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Saskatchewan Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili says the provincial government needs to act in the face of COVID-19 records being surpassed daily.

Meili says the province should release its pandemic modelling, secure support from the federal government and modify  the current isolation orders for children in schools.

"We are under siege from COVID-19 and the person that should be leading is nowhere to be found," Meili said Tuesday.

Meili said Moe has put "politics before people."

On Tuesday, the province reported 311 people with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan's hospitals. It was the first time that more than 300 people have been hospitalized for COVID in the province.

There were also a record 65 people with COVID-19 in intensive care units. 

In addition, 10 more Saskatchewan residents died.

"It makes me sad and it makes me incredibly angry, because this death toll that's climbing every day — it's on Scott Moe. He had the ability to prevent this and he chose not to," Meili said.

Meili asks to hear from health minister

Meili said the government should return to regular COVID-19 briefings and questioned what Health Minister Paul Merriman has been doing over the past month.

Merriman last addressed the media on Aug. 25.

"The health minister has been nowhere to be found. It's been over a month since he last spoke to the press and at that time he said he had no plan to change," Meili said.

Since Aug. 25, 90 people with COVID-19 have died in Saskatchewan, the number of people hospitalized has increased by 203 and ICU admissions have risen by 45.

Julie Leggott, the director of communications for the provincial government, confirmed to CBC Tuesday afternoon that Merriman will be a part of a COVID-19 news conference on Wednesday.

"Minister Merriman has been working diligently alongside the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry of Health in recent weeks co-ordinating supports and resources for the health-care system. All media requests are weighed against these other significant demands on his time," Leggott said in a statement.

Opposition wants modelling made public

Meili said the public should also know what provincial COVID modelling shows.

Dr. Susan Shaw, an ICU physician and chief medical officer with the SHA, confirmed during a virtual town hall with physicians last week that although modelling is still being produced by the province, the Ministry of Health has decided that it should no longer be widely shared with doctors in the province. 

Shaw was asked a question about why physicians did not get to see provincial modelling by a doctor during the meeting.

CBC has asked for an explanation from the provincial government, but has not received an answer.

"The government needs to stop hiding [modelling]," Meili said. "At this point, when we know it's sitting there and they refuse to share that information, it's not just keeping the information quiet, it's directly lying to Saskatchewan people about the future."

Meili said without seeing the modelling he cannot suggest what the government should do in terms of health measures to reduce transmission.

Calls to change isolation order in schools

Opposition education critic Carla Beck called on the government to amend its isolation order for children who are deemed close contacts in schools.

On Sept. 17, the government's health order said unvaccinated school-age children, from day care to high school, are exempt from having to isolate if they are a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case, as long as they have no symptoms and wear a face covering.

"We are seeing classrooms in this province hit hard by the delta variant," Beck said.

Beck said the province decided to "treat this school year like any other," creating a "patchwork" of health policies across the 27 school divisions.

Pediatrician Dr. Ayisha Kurji said last week that the isolation exemption could increase the risk of potential transmission of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, 103 of the 449 new cases in Saskatchewan (23 per cent) were in children under 12, who are ineligible to be vaccinated. 

Children too young to be vaccinated have made up an average of 22 per cent of new cases since the provincial government began disclosing the age breakdown earlier this month.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated that six health regions no longer have any ICU beds available. This was due to the province including a new note in its daily update saying there were no beds in those six regions. On Wednesday, the province clarified that there were never ICU beds in those regions and the new note was meant to reflect that.
    Sep 29, 2021 9:15 AM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from Alexander Quon and Yasmine Ghania

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