COVID-19 in Sask: Province announces 8th case
Newest presumptive case is 2nd Regina virus patient to have attended Vancouver dental conference
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- There's now an eighth case of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.
- Two of the cases, both from Regina, attended the Vancouver dental conference now known as a hotspot.
- In total, six cases are presumptive positive, two have been confirmed by a second lab in Winnipeg.
- All cases in the province are linked to recent travel.
- More than 1,000 people have been tested in the province for the virus.
- The province wants the clogged 811 health line to be able to handle more than 500 calls at once.
- The release of the province's 2020-2021 provincial budget, due Wednesday, will not include revenue forecasts.
Saskatchewan health officials have announced an eighth case of the COVID-19 coronavirus, found in a person in their 50s who tested positive in Regina.
That person had recently travelled to Vancouver to a dental conference that has prompted the B.C. government to order all attendees, some 15,000 people, to self-isolate for two weeks.
One of Saskatchewan's other COVID-19 cases — the fourth to be reported by the province — also attended the conference and also tested positive in Regina.
CBC News has asked the health ministry if any dentist offices have been shut down and if any patients have been told of the connection.
There remain no reported cases of community (non travel-related) transmission in Saskatchewan.
"We certainly expect more travel-related cases over the next week or two," said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, on Tuesday afternoon.
"We hope we don't see non-travel cases but I won't be surprised if we do," he added.
Most cases so far expected to recover
Shahab shared some encouraging news on the cases found so far.
"Apart from the one person who's hospitalized [due to a pre-existing illness], all the rest of the cases are actually doing well and we expect them to make a full recovery within a week or two," he said.
A spokesperson for the health ministry confirmed earlier on Tuesday that "a case is considered recovered from COVID-19 when follow-up test results are negative."
Shahab advised against 20 people or more getting together in one place.
"If you can avoid large gatherings, it's not worth the risk," he said. "If it's just two or three friends getting together who are asymptomic, that's manageable."
Shahab offered a personal anecdote when commenting on the disruptions to everyday life brought on by the virus, including the abrupt halt Friday to the 2019-2020 school year.
"My own youngest son is now unhappy because he's missing his Grade 8 graduation," Shahab said. "I did tell him children in Japan graduated together on Minecraft, as an example."
811 line still having issues
Earlier on Tuesday, the government again pledged to improve the beleaguered 811 health line that users say is not connecting them with the medical advice they're seeking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The line continues to keep people on hold for hours, drop calls and revert to a message indicating "technical difficulties," despite the province having more than doubled the line's staff over the weekend and increasing the number of lines available in the call centre.
Asked about the continued impasse faced by users, officials said they are working as quickly as possible to add capacity to the line.
"Certainly the line has seen a significantly greater volume of calls than we would typically see," said Derek Miller, the site commander lead for the authority's emergency operations centre in Saskatoon. "We're in the process today of transferring to a new 811 phone infrastructure, which will increase the call lines to over 500, with the ability to increase that."
The update came Tuesday during a media call with speakers from various government departments.
Dr. Susan Shaw, the Saskatchewan Health Authority's chief medical officer, said the agency has been approached by retired health workers who want to help out with the province's response.
"We're looking at how to best bring them onto our team," Shaw said.
More than 1,100 tests performed so far
By Monday, health workers had performed 1,107 COVID-19 coronavirus tests in Saskatchewan. That includes 191 tests from the northern part of the province.
One Saskatoon doctor, speaking of an earlier, Sunday figure of 796 tests, said the results were promising.
"Almost all tests done have been negative. With over 700 cases reported, only seven are positive — about one percent," said Paul Masiowski, a neurologist in Saskatoon who is tracking the virus' status in the province closely.
The results in Saskatchewan follow a pattern seen elsewhere in Canada, Masiowski said.
"Several provinces have only a few cases, all related to travel. Most of the other provinces have also been testing about 100 people for COVID-19 for every one positive case they've found."
Masiowksi said that's a sign that public health officials have been proactively looking for evidence of community (non-travel-related) transmission — something the province's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said is only a matter of time in Saskatchewan.
"Community spread of the virus in Saskatchewan is very likely to be discovered soon," he said.
A promising early trend
On Monday, the health ministry updated its daily chart on how many tests have been conducted. As of Sunday — just days after the province opened one expanded testing site in both Saskatoon and Saskatchewan — 796 tests had been completed, with 16 test results pending.
The 796 figure does not represent how many people who have been tested, as some people are being tested more than once.
"We couldn't hope for better results so far, in terms of surveillance," Masiowski said of the test results overall.
The province has a new online tool to help people determine whether they need to be tested. The tool can be found here.
Saskatoon police close service centre
The Saskatoon Police Service announced Tuesday it will close its service centre, where people file reports and order criminal record checks.
"Instead we are encouraging the use of online reporting or calling our non-emergency number rather than attending in person," the police service said in a release.
Vulnerable sector checks will not be available and victim services will be closed, though staff will work with clients on the phone.
Some officers will be using face masks, the police service added.
Regina police screening visitors
The Regina Police Service began locking the main public entrance to its headquarters on Tuesday. The service announced on Twitter that anyone hoping to enter their 1717 Osler Street building will have to answer questions about whether they have travelled, have severe flu-like symptoms and more.
Anyone not allowed in will have to call 777-6500 for police assistance.
The service said it's trying ensure the flu is not transferred to officers.
Update: The front doors at 1717 Osler Street are now locked - anyone attending RPS HQ will be met by a Commissionaire who will be asking the following questions. 👇🏼<br><br>We hope this measure will help reduce foot traffic in our building and keep our staff & the public safe. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a> <a href="https://t.co/Z3AUNdIUgj">pic.twitter.com/Z3AUNdIUgj</a>—@reginapolice
Education minister reflects on school shut-down
On Tuesday, Education Minister Gord Wyant addressed the government's decision to close all pre K-12 schools as of Friday.
Wyant said the province didn't shut things down immediately on Monday "to ensure parents had opportunities to have some alternative childcare for their children."
"We don't know when the infections are going to peak, so we want to make sure we're planning for the long-term as opposed to the near term," Wyant added.
Teachers can plan their lessons this week from either home or school, he added.
"Obviously there won't be any kids there [at school] but there'll be an opportunity for [teachers] to be there to provide and create lesson plans," Wyant said.
"But we're also saying, if they don't want to be there, if they want to be at home, then that's certainly their option. We know that this the virus has certainly got some lots of people spooked and I know that there's a lot of people that don't want to be out in those kinds of environments."
Need to self-isolate? Here's a quick guide
Shahab has previously stressed that only people who have recently travelled and who have symptoms, including respiratory and flu-like symptoms, should seek testing for COVID-19.
Shahab has also echoed other health officials in asking anyone who is returning to Saskatchewan from anywhere outside the country to self-isolate themselves at home for two weeks and monitor their symptoms.
How do you do that exactly? CBC News' Ellen Mauro explains what to do in this handy video.
Masiowski had some advice of his own when it came to social distancing in general.
"A good way to get in the right mindset is to imagine that you do have the virus," he said. "If you knew you had it, you'd be very careful who you got close to, because you wouldn't want to make anyone else sick. If you've ever waved off a handshake because you're sick with a cold, it's the same idea — you're being considerate and not exposing the other person to your germs.
"The only difference is, with this coronavirus, you have to act like you might be contagious even though you actually feel fine."
with files from The Morning Edition