The Sask. government has released a 3-step plan to slowly ease COVID-19 public health measures in the province, with some current restrictions possibly being relaxed as soon as late this month, if the government’s desired vaccination targets are achieved.
In a news release issued Tuesday, Sask. openly said that the plain is intended in part as “an incentive” for the province’s residents to follow health measures and get vaccinated.
“Those are the two things we all need to do in order to move forward through the three steps of reopening so we can enjoy a great Saskatchewan summer and get back to normal,” Premier Scott Moe said in the release.
Moe said during a later press conference that he knows some residents are still unsure about getting vaccinated.
“It’s time for you to get off that fence,” he said, adding that the province is expected to receive over 300,000 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine in May.
The potential timeline for the reopening plan, with the rules being increasingly relaxed or removed towards the end of this month, the third week of June and lastly in the second week of July, is “subject to change if vaccination targets are not met,” as per a graphic also released by the province.
The graphic additionally outlined the specific changes associated with every step, everything from permitting fitness classes to restart during Step One to removing current capacity limits for stores in Step Two.
Removing the need to wear masks is not mentioned in the plan, though under Step Three the graphic notes
“guidance on gathering sizes and indoor masking is still being developed.”
The rule changes will apply equally to partially vaccinated, fully vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
Each of the three stages of change has two thresholds that must be met before it is implemented:
Step One – Last week of May: It has been 3 weeks since 70% of persons aged 40 and above have got their first dose, and vaccine eligibility has opened to all adults aged 18 and older across Saskatchewan.
Step Two – Third week of June: It has been three weeks since 70% of residents aged 30 and above have received their first dose and three weeks since Step One started.
Step Three – Second week of July: It has been three weeks since 70% of residents aged 18 and older have received their first dose and three weeks Step Two started.
As of Tuesday, 65% of Sask. residents aged 40 and above had received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Moe was joined by provincial chief medical health officer Dr. Saqdi Shahab during the news conference and was asked why other metrics like COVID-19 hospitalizations aren’t being mentioned in the plan.
He said vaccination numbers are what drive down hospitalizations. Shahab added the province will monitor hospitalization and transmission rates.
Ryan Meili, the leader of the Sask. NDP, said the plan should be pegged to those metrics.
“If Moe and co. only look at vaccination rates and ignore community transmission, test positivity and hospitalizations, they are playing a very dangerous game indeed,” Meili tweeted.
The number of infected COVID-19 patients under intensive care could influence the plan in one way, said Moe. If Sask. were to meet the metrics for any step earlier than projected, the province would need to consider the hospitalization and ICU situation before actually proceeding earlier with that step, said Moe.
The announcement of the plan arrives weeks after Sask. doctors cautioned that intensive care wards, especially those in Regina, face a higher-than-normal patient load because of people infected with COVID-19.
Younger COVID-19 patients are being admitted to ICUs and staying for longer periods of time, as per the latest COVID-19 info sheet shared among Saskatchewan Health Authority physicians last Thursday.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Regina ICUs has gone down in the past two weeks, from 35 on Apr. 20 to 21 as of Monday.
During the same period, the number of Saskatoon ICU patients with COVID has increased a bit, from 10 to 14.
COVID-19 hospitalizations across the province went from 195 to 174 during that time frame.