Saskatoon

COVID-19 in Sask: New testing sites will help monitor impact of reopening plan

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it plans to increase the number of testing sites for COVID-19 across the province to at least 15 as part of a strategy to coincide with a gradual reopening plan to be announced this week. 

Four new cases reported Tuesday

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it will expand the availability of testing across the province to support decisions about reopening and loosening restrictions. (Trevor Bothorel/Radio-Canada)
  • Four new cases were reported in Saskatchewan on Tuesday.
  • Two of those new cases were in the far north region, one in Saskatoon and one in Regina.
  • The total number of cases reported in Saskatchewan is now 320.
  • Long-term care staff limited to working at one facility starting April 28
  • The northern community of La Loche remains under curfew.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it plans to increase the number of testing sites for COVID-19 across the province to at least 15 as part of a strategy to coincide with a gradual reopening plan to be announced this week.

"It will be that work that tells us, as we lift restrictions, what we may have lifted too quickly, because we'll be able to see those cases come up," said SHA chief executive Scott Livingstone a news conference in Regina on Tuesday afternoon. 

"The model is very dynamic and we'll be able to use it to support some of the decisions that may be made with respect to a phasing-in of a reduction of the restrictions."

The province announced Tuesday that Premier Scott Moe will hold a live television address on Wednesday night before releasing a "Re-Open" plan for Saskatchewan the next morning.

SHA staff at Tuesday's news briefing also provided more detail about the logistics of a public health order that will prohibit health-care workers from working at more than one long-term care home starting April 28.  

The authority says it has come to an agreement with workers' unions for that to happen. About 20 per cent of the SHA's long-term care staff work at multiple facilities. 

"Staff cohorting has never been done on a provincial basis and this will be our first," said Livingstone.

"With such a large and varied workforce spread over such a sizeable geography ... achieving this will be no small feat."

Long-term care workers' pay to be maintained 

Derek Miller, SHA emergency operations centre lead, said making sure the change does not affect workers' pay is an important part of the cohorting plan.   

"We are working to, one, give them the opportunity to indicate a preference to which site they might work in," said Miller.

"And we are working with them to ensure that, in terms of their pay, that they are at no disadvantage, based on where they end up working through the cohorting strategy."

COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan as of April 21, 2020. (CBC News Graphics)

Four new cases were reported in Saskatchewan on Tuesday. Two of those cases where in the far north region, one was in Saskatoon and the other was in Regina.

Northern medical health officer Dr. Rim Zayed provided an update on an "outbreak" of five cases in La Loche at Tuesday's news conference.

La Loche outbreak 'under control'

She said the first case in that community came from a worker who had been in Alberta. It was then transmitted to a health-care worker. The remaining three cases, including the long-term care resident, were all linked. 

"The situation is under control and there is also a continuous communication with the community," said Zayed. 

She said the definition of an outbreak for long-term care is when one staff member or one patient is diagnosed with COVID-19.

The mayor of La Loche, Sask. said earlier in the day he was optimistic that a curfew in the community is reducing the spread of COVID-19, after the Saskatchewan Health Authority said last week there was an "outbreak situation."

Robert St. Pierre said people in the northern community are obeying a curfew requiring them to be inside their homes between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. CST.

The curfew is punishable by a fine of $100 following a warning and $150 for subsequent offences.  

St. Pierre said daily updates he has been receiving from the SHA have made him hopeful that measures to slow the spread of the virus are working.

"Until we're out of the woods we're going to treat it like it's an outbreak," said St. Pierre. 

"We just need to make sure that we go through the next few weeks without any more." 

'Let's get through this'

La Loche is located about 520 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. 

St. Pierre said he is pleased with the way COVID-19 cases in his community are being handled by the SHA.

"Everything is going the way I think it should be going," he said.

"Let's get through this. Remember, the virus doesn't move, people move the virus."

A total of 24,811 tests for COVID-19 have been performed in Saskatchewan as of April 21.

Of the 320 cases to date, 25 of those were in patients aged 19 and under. People aged between 20 and 39 account for 116 cases, and there are 107 cases in people aged 40 to 59. There are 63 cases among patients aged 60 to 79, and nine cases in patients aged 80 or older.  

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