There are 42 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan as of Thursday afternoon, according to the province.
It’s the highest one-day increase the province has had since the pandemic began. The previous high for a single-day jump was 34 on May 4.
Thirty-one of the new cases are in the south region, along with one in the north, four in the Saskatoon area and six in the central region.
The province said this overall increased level of COVID-19 activity in southwest and west-central Saskatchewan means there is an increased risk of transmission to the public.
“This outbreak is a reminder that the virus has not gone away and once it starts to spread, it can spread quickly,” said Minister of Rural and Remote Health Warren Kaeding.
“We all have to keep being careful.”
There have now been a total of 923 cases reported in the province, with 114 known cases still active.
Eleven people are in hospital with COVID-19, up three from Wednesday. This also breaks a provincial record for most COVID-19 patients in hospital, which was previously nine.
Nine people are receiving in-patient care, including seven in Saskatoon, one in the south and one in the north. One person is in intensive care in Saskatoon and one is in the ICU in the south.
There have been three more recoveries, for a total of 794. So far, 15 people have died.
+42 cases in <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Saskatchewan?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Saskatchewan</a> today, the highest daily increase ever:<br>923 cases (+42 today)<br>15 deaths (+0)<br>11 hospitalizations (+3 today)<br>794 recoveries (+3 today)<a href=”https://t.co/VQnhQtcAaF”>https://t.co/VQnhQtcAaF</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19SK?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19SK</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19Canada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19Canada</a> <a href=”https://t.co/hGurd8BgIt”>pic.twitter.com/hGurd8BgIt</a>
Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said there are more than 10 cases that are unrelated to Hutterite colonies, or each other.
“They are spread across the southwest; they’re not isolated to a single area,” said Livingstone. “The vast majority are on colony, but we do have cases across the community in the southwest and west central area, which is a concern as well.”
Kaeding said the province is not issuing any new public health orders or announcing any closures in the area.
When asked if the province would consider locking down communities in the south or central regions as it did during the outbreak in the north, Kaeding didn’t rule that possibility out.
However, he said that Indigenous leaders had called for the northern lockdown, unlike Hutterite leaders, who “have not asked for that to occur in their area.”
Livingstone said health-care workers have gone to colonies, when invited, to do widespread testing. He said testing sites have also been expanded in the area.
“Typically we’ve been going door to door … doing risk assessments, harm reduction, reminding folks of public health orders and how to mitigate the spread of the disease.”
Visitors being restricted at medical centres
Visits to the Cypress Regional Hospital in Swift Current, and care homes in the south and central areas of the province, are being restricted because of an “increased transmission of COVID-19,” the Saskatchewan Health Authority says.
The hospital will only allow family members for compassionate reasons, the SHA said Thursday.
Visitation will be restricted to outdoor visits and end-of-life care for long term care homes in several other communities.
Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault told CBC Thursday morning that he only knows of one confirmed case in the city.
“It’s a pretty big area. The city definitely is the hub for a lot of trade,” he said. “And I think for everybody coming in what that means is just practice safe hand washing, social distancing.
“They have in the past and I think they’ll continue to do that moving forward.”
Perrault said the city is taking direction from the province, which he said has been providing timely information.
“They have said that we can expect to see increased numbers as the province is opening up and … it’s not a surprise that we’re seeing that now.”
Other communities with long-term care homes where visits will be restricted include Biggar, Cabri, Eastend, Elrose, Eston, Foam Lake, Gravelbourg, Gull Lake, Kerrobert, Kindersley, Lafleche, Lestock, Mankota, Maple Creek, Meadows in Swift Current, Ponteix, Raymore, Rosetown, Shaunavon, Theodore and Wynyard.
The City of Swift Current is one of four communities added Wednesday to a list of 14 identified by the health authority as having an increased risk of transmission, along with Grandview, Pleasant Valley and Tramping Lake.
The addition of Swift Current came only one day after the health authority announced that an unspecified number of people went to a total of nine businesses in Swift Current and area between June 29 and July 10 before testing positive for COVID-19.
Perrault said all the businesses named were taking precautions.
“For anybody that was at those businesses during that time, they’re being encouraged by the province to get tested if you choose,” he said, adding people can arrange a test by calling 811.
“I’m very thankful that the province has opened it up to anybody — whether you have symptoms or not, you have a chance to get tested.”
In its last public bulletin on July 8, the Hutterian Safety Council — an inter-provincial group that has worked with the SHA to combat the virus’ spread in colonies — said “multiple” Hutterite communities had cases of COVID-19, “many of them linked to a large funeral a few weeks ago.”
“Initially, there was strong resistance to any public health input by impacted Hutterites; the reaction of some community leaders has been problematic. Because of this, the Saskatchewan and Alberta Health Authorities reached out to HSC to help facilitate co-operation,” according to the bulletin.
“Currently, there is still some resistance, but there is increased co-operation between the Health Authorities and Hutterite communities.”
Saskatchewan health officials have said new cases are turning up thanks to active testing and contact tracing made possible by co-operative colonies that have invited health workers into their communities.
Earlier this week, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed some new cases in Alberta were linked to Saskatchewan Hutterite colonies, after being asked about interprovincial travel.
Hinshaw also said it was “critical” not to single out any particular segment of society.
“We all need to be working together to follow the public health guidance to stop transmission,” she said.