Saskatchewan·Analysis

Saskatchewan still hasn't reached threshold it set to drop masking, but plan stands

The province said it had reached the goal over this past weekend, but it was rounding up to 70 per cent. As of Tuesday, Saskatchewan remains 755 first doses away from reaching the benchmark it set for itself. 

Province had said it would use vaccination threshold as guidance for reopening

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe tours a COVID-19 mass immunization clinic and drive-thru immunization space at International Trade Centre in Regina on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan has yet to hit the threshold that the government previously said would need to come three weeks before mask and gathering size restrictions would be dropped, but the province remains on course to drop those restrictions in less than two weeks.

The provincial government initially said it would only remove those final restrictions three weeks after 70 per cent of residents 12 and older got their first shot of vaccine.

Premier Scott Moe's announced in a video posted to Twitter on June 20 that the province would "hit that target in the next couple of days." It still has not done so nine days later.

The province said it had reached the goal over this past weekend, but it was rounding up to 70 per cent. As of Tuesday Saskatchewan remained 755 first doses away from reaching the benchmark it set for itself. 

On June 1, Saskatchewan was the first province to announce a plan that would get the province back to normal. 

The three-step plan would be guided by first-dose vaccination thresholds that would trigger three-week countdowns to subsequent steps in the plan. 

The government stuck to the first and second step of its reopening plan with relative ease, but its policy for Step 3, and the additional removal of remaining guidelines, has been less rigid. 

The roadmap for reopening was published on June 1, 2021. (Government of Saskatchewan)

The third step, which would see most restrictions aside from masking and gathering sizes removed, was to come three weeks after 70 per cent of people aged 18 and older had received a first dose, as long as three weeks had also passed since the beginning of Step 2.

Then on June 1, the province announced that it would take the final action of removing masking rules and gathering size restrictions three weeks after at least 70 per cent of the population aged 12 and older had received their first dose. 

"This means that all restrictions could be lifted as early as July 11, if that threshold is reached by June 20," read the news release. 

But weeks later on June 20, when the province announced it would drop all public restrictions on July 11, the language the province was using to justify the reopening had changed. 

Gone was the reference to a 70 per cent threshold for all those able to get vaccines, and there was no reference to a three-week waiting period. 

Instead, Moe was quoted in the news release as saying the announcement was being made because the province was so "close to the final threshold." 

The province directed all questions on this topic to a provincial COVID-19 news conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. 

Premier Scott Moe maintains that Saskatchewan will not do any vaccination incentives

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Saskatchewan's premier thinks getting the COVID-19 vaccine and staying healthy is incentive enough 1:32

Not the finish line

By the government's own estimates, there are 1,033,096 people aged 12 and older eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

That means that to meet the 70 per cent threshold, the province needs to administer 723,167 first doses. 

Saskatchewan sat at 722,412 first doses as of Tuesday's update, 755 doses fewer than the goal. 

The province may cross the threshold later this week — even as early as Wednesday — but the number of first doses the province has been administering has stagnated as second doses have ramped up. 

On Monday the province reported administering only 981 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Second doses totalled 11,414.

On Tuesday it administered 917 first doses compared to 8,617 second doses. 

Scott Moe said last week that the 70 per cent threshold was "not the finish line." 

Restrictions are set to be removed on July 11, whether some members of the province are ready or not.

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