COVID-19 in Sask: Premier Moe calls for locally made masks

In their daily update, provincial health officials said 106 cases are travel-related, 65 are either contacts or linked to mass gatherings, 13 have no known exposure, and the origin of 47 cases is still being investigated.

Largest number of cases are in Saskatoon, with 112 recorded

Health-care systems around the globe are seeking personal protective equipment like gloves, gowns and N95 masks, as well as equipment like ventilators, notes Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

There are now 231 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan. 

On Saturday afternoon, the government of Saskatchewan announced that 11 new cases have been recorded in the province. The Saskatoon region has the most cases in the province, with 112.

In their daily update, provincial officials said 106 cases are travel-related, 65 are either contacts or linked to mass gatherings, 13 have no known exposure and the origin of 47 cases is still being investigated.

The number of people listed as recovered from the illness increased from 48 people to 55.

Four people are in hospital as a result of the virus, including one in ICU.

The age range with the largest number of cases is 20 to 44, with 104 cases. There are 82 cases involving people aged 45 to 64, another 38 in people over 65 and seven cases involving people 19 or younger. 

As of Saturday afternoon, the province says it has conducted 12,670 tests. 

Moe calls for locally made masks

Meanwhile, in order to help fight COVID-19, the province's premier says Canada needs to start manufacturing personal protective equipment locally to ensure it can meet demand from front-line medical workers.

The remarks came on Friday, after U.S. President Donald Trump's administration invoked the Defence Production Act — which allows the president to boost industrial production of critically needed goods — meaning the manufacturer 3M is under orders not to send U.S.-made masks to other countries, such as Canada.

Premier Scott Moe said that move is "nothing short of a betrayal." However, the premier said he was pushing for local production even before Trump's order. 

"Traditionally we have relied on our supply chains from around the world when it comes to some of our health-care supplies," he said.

"I think we do need to have a very serious discussion about having them manufactured. We have the capability to do that here, not just in Saskatchewan, but in other areas of Canada." 

Health-care systems around the globe are seeking personal protective equipment like gloves, gowns and N95 masks, as well as equipment such as ventilators, Moe said, suggesting that may be the reasoning behind decisions like Trump's on Friday.

He says provincial leaders across the country are working together with the manufacturing sector to find out whether  some production can be shifted over to produce protective and medical equipment.

Premier Scott Moe and Dr. Saqib Shahab speak to reporters on April 3, 2020. During the press conference, Premier Moe said Canada should be manufacturing more COVID-19 equipment like N95 masks and ventilators. (Saskatchewan Media Pool )

"We are encouraged by that conversation and the individuals that are involved and we look forward to ultimately having some results with Canadian manufacturing of some of the masks, some of the ventilators and such," said Moe. 

More transparency promised

On Friday evening, Premier Moe said the government of Saskatchewan will be releasing more information around COVID-19 plans for Saskatchewan next week.

In a tweet, the premier said models and projections on the spread of COVID-19 will be publicly released. He also said the province will provide an update on the steps the health system is taking to expand capacity to handle surges due to COVID-19.

The Government of Saskatchewan details how many cases it's recorded daily since the first case of COVID-19 hit the province back on March 11, 2020. (Government of Saskatchewan)

The president of the province's nurses union, Tracy Zambory, previously said a lack of transparency from the government of Saskatchewan has been "very frustrating," with front-line staff feeling they have been left in the dark on the availability of personal protective equipment and long-term plans for the pandemic moving forward.

In March, a document leaked to media outlined the province's initial projections for COVID-19, which warned that the illness "will almost certainly overwhelm" the province's health system.

In an interview on Saturday, Zambory said it's important for the government to release the models to ensure members of the public are informed, but said they need to do a better job of including front-line workers like nurses in the process.

She said the government promised the union it would be a partner in the response, but Zambory said so far nurses have been struggling to get information from the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry of Health.

"We were assured that SUN was a very vital partner, an important stakeholder and that there would be transparency all the way through, and there would be no secrets — well, it's been the exact opposite."

Tracy Zambory says the province needs to do a better job including front line staff like registered nurses in the planning processes around COVID-19. (Saskatchewan Union of Nurses)

She said SUN would see the release of the plans as the government taking a "first step" toward being transparent with their COVID-19 response 

Zambory also said it's important for members of the public to see the data as well, as it may help them understand why the public health orders that are currently in place are so important. 

"The release of the modelling data is a step in the right direction, it absolutely is," she said. "It's important that the public knows what's happening. Knowledge is power and it makes people more in control and perhaps settled." 

The exact date the new modelling and projections will be released is unclear. 

In a statement on Friday, the SHA said it's working to keep its partners informed as best as possible.

"We recognize this is not always as timely as would be ideal but we commit to continuing to partner with them through these difficult times. We will continue to seek input from unions into this planning and we appreciate the input our unions provide," the statement said.

Order to stop shipping may have consequences: 3M

Following Trump's order under the Defence Production Act, 3M issued a release saying the move could have "significant humanitarian implications," as it is a "critical supplier of the respirators." 

The company, which employs 90,000 people across the globe, also said the move could result in blowback.

"Ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done," the company said in the release.

"If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease." 

The Government of Saskatchewan says there were 11 more cases reported in Saskatchewan on April 5, 2020 bringing the provincial total up to 231. (Government of Saskatchewan)

Millions of masks coming to Canada 

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the dispute during his daily briefing, stating that failing to send supplies destined for Canada "could end up hurting Americans as much as it hurts anybody else."

But the prime minister said Saturday that he wasn't seeking retaliatory measures against the U.S. — such as blocking Canadian nurses from Windsor, Ont., from travelling across the American border to Detroit.

"We are not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive. We know that it is in both of our interests to continue to work collaboratively and co-operatively," Trudeau said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday, April 3, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press)

The prime minister said Saturday a shipment of millions of masks will be arriving in Canada within the next 48 hours on a chartered cargo flight.

He said the government is also working with provinces to transport their medical supplies where possible, noting supplies for Quebec will be arriving on the charter.