Saskatoon

COVID-19 in Sask: Province announces first 3 coronavirus recoveries

The Saskatchewan government's latest update also reports nine new cases, bringing Saskatchewan's total to 95.

Latest update also reports nine new cases, bringing Saskatchewan's total to 95

The SHA announced Thursday that three people in Saskatchewan had recovered from COVID-19. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Some good COVID-19 news finally came to Saskatchewan on Thursday. The province announced that three people have recovered from the virus.

The province's latest daily update, released online, also reported nine new cases of the virus, bringing the total number of cases in Saskatchewan to 95. Five cases are in hospital, with two of them under intensive care.

Saskatoon remains the community with the most cases, at 44.

Health officials have previously confirmed that a person can be declared recovered when a subsequent test comes back negative for the first time.

The province announced its first presumptive positive case 16 days ago.

Here's the latest map showing regional breakdown of the 95 cases:

(CBC)

Rally flagged after 2 guests test positive

A snowmobile rally that attracted about 110 supper guests on March 14 — just a day after Saskatchewan health officials announced an impending ban on public gatherings of more than 250 people — has been put on the public's radar after two attendees tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

On Wednesday afternoon, the Saskatchewan Health Authority issued a release about the event, which was hosted by the Lakeland Tree Dodgers Snowmobile Club, a group that maintains trails in the Lakeland area just north of Prince Albert, according to its Facebook page. 

The health authority's advisory, which warned of possible exposure to the virus, was for "anyone who attended the Lakeland Snowmobile Club Wilderness Rally Supper in Christopher Lake on Saturday March 14, 2020 between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. This includes one person who served at the event.

"Anyone who attended the supper needs to self isolate immediately."

CBC News has reached out to the snowmobile club for comment. 

According to the advisory, organizers of the rally said over 110 people attended the event. Photos posted to the snowmobile club's Facebook page show at least three children at the event.

More than 110 people attended a snowmobile club's rally supper north of Prince Albert on March 14. It happened a day after the Saskatchewan Health Authority banned public gatherings of more than 250 people. This is a photo of the event posted to the club's Facebook page. (Lakeland Tree Dodgers Snowmobile Club/Facebook)

"Just wanna do a huge shout out to all of our sponsors and great folks who attended our wilderness rally that was held March 14th just prior to when the no gathering rules went into place," read a March 23 post on the Facebook page. 

"It was a huge success and with your help we were able to raise more than $10,000 towards the purchase of a new groomer."

"Practice social distancing and stay healthy!!" the post concluded.

This Facebook post points out that the supper rally took place "just prior to when the no gathering rules went into place." (Lakeland Tree Dodgers Snowmobile Club/Facebook)

Supper attendees who live in Prince Albert or the surrounding area are asked to contact the Prince Albert Communicable Disease Team at 306-765-6504. Those outside the city are asked to call the province's 811 health line. 

Dr. Khami Chokani, the medical health officer for the Prince Albert region, said in an email Thursday afternoon that some attendees of the rally reached out to the health authority, but that "we do not have any testing results from the contact tracing at this time."

"We are aware that prior to the snowmobile club's event, an individual had travelled out of province and been in contact with someone who had travelled internationally."

A day after 250-person group ban announced

The event took place a day after the March 13 order by Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, that "no public gathering of over 250 people in any one room take place," effective March 16.

As of today, that rule has been even further tightened to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people. 

The rally also took place three days after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. 

The health authority's advisory was posted to the snowmobile group's page on Wednesday night. The health authority also circulated it on social media. 

The snowmobile club's trails were closed as of Tuesday, according to the Facebook page.

'Group events are becoming smaller and smaller'

Two prior events have been flagged as flashpoints in Saskatchewan's fight against the coronavirus.

Some of Saskatchewan's 86 COVID-19 cases (as of Wednesday) attended the Pacific Dental Conference, held at the Vancouver Convention Centre March 5 to 7, before bans on public gatherings became common. 

Another 11 of Saskatchewan's coronavirus cases are "front-line health care staff and physicians" from Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert who attended an Edmonton curling bonspiel that took place from March 11-14.

"We have seen a significant number of cases from two mass gatherings," Shahab said of those events at a news conference on Wednesday.

"We have seen about 16 cases in total from those two events. But as those group events are becoming smaller and smaller, and [there are] restrictions on the settings in which those events happen, we hope to see less cases from those events."

The health authority's advisory about the rally supper came only hours after the news conference with Shahab. 

New appointment-only treatment site opens in Regina

The health authority announced Thursday that, in order to avoid overwhelming emergency rooms and physicians' offices, it has opened the first of a series of planned COVID-19-related "assessment and treatment" sites. This first site is in Regina.

The site is meant for patients who have appointments and who:

  • Have worsening COVID-19-like symptoms.
  • Tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Have COVID-19 and also have chronic diseases.

"Other assessment sites will be established across the province as the need arises," according to a release

Police step in to enforce public health orders

The Ministry of Justice announced Thursday it had halted enforcement actions on unpaid fines for the next six months.

It also advised people that provincial court buildings are no longer accepting cash as payment.

"This does not mean fines do not need to be paid," the ministry said in a news release, adding that people can still pay their fines online at this link.

Justice Minister Don Morgan said there's been a "high degree of public support" when it comes to the public health orders issued because of COVID-19. He said he is not aware of any charges having been laid for people not following the rules.

Police have had to step in on some occasions, he said. 

"I know there's been a number of incidents where people were not in compliance. They were warned by police that if they didn't comply, they would be arrested and charged," Morgan said.

"In all cases, the people became compliant."

Justice Minister Don Morgan says police have had to step in some occasions when people haven't followed the public health orders issued to combat the spread of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Should Saskatchewan expect a surge in cases?

The largest day-over-day increase in cases to date in Saskatchewan was recorded on March 20, when 18 new cases were announced.

Shahab was asked at Wednesday's news conference whether Saskatchewan residents should be prepared for a much more substantial day-over-day increase soon, given the return of international travellers spurred in part by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's urgent call for Canadians abroad to return home and self-isolate.

"Yes, we will see more people returning who can and should return back to Canada. So because of that we will see a proportion of people who are attending test positive. As long as they are self-isolating for two weeks, we should see no further transmission in the community," Shahab said.

"We may see in addition to that, household contacts or people who are returning that test positive, so that's one group that obviously we're monitoring and that's the major proportion of our cases so far."

Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer, speaks at a COVID-19 news update earlier this month. (Canadian Press)

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated the ban on groups of more than 250 people was announced on March 13, but failed to say the ban did not go into effect until March 16.
    Mar 26, 2020 10:22 AM CT

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips and ideas welcomed at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca