Health Minister Paul Merriman announced the expansion of the Vaccination Booking System to include all Saskatchewan residents 52 years old and over, effective 8 am Wednesday April 14. Those eligible to book an appointment must have been born on or before April 14, 1969. There were also several changes to the delivery plan to include more vulnerable groups to the priority grouping; all pregnant women, young adults aged 16 and 17 who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable, and everyone over the age of 40 in the far north can now book appointments. Pregnant women and vulnerable 16 and 17 year-olds will receive an eligibility letter from their physician and will need to book through the SaskVax telephone service (1-833-727-5829).
Effective immediately, the Public Health Order relating to household bubbles will once again be restricted to immediate households only for all of Saskatchewan. At today’s update from the provincial government Health Minister Merriman stated that while the vaccination program is progressing well the number of transmissions is still too high and the tightening of restrictions comes at the advice of Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Shahab. The changes also limit the size of gatherings at worship services once again to 30 people effective 12:01 am Friday, April 16. These and all other Public Health Orders are in effect until April 26 when they will be reviewed.
Transmissions across the province in general are going up and in an effort to keep the rate of transmissions from rapidly increasing in more areas across the province, the move is necessary. The majority of cases in Regina, the south and central areas are the variants of concern. Saskatoon is also trending upwards in all measurements, and Dr. Shahab issued a word of caution for those in Saskatoon and area to do all they can to make sure they do not follow the trajectory that Regina experienced. Saskatoon, he said, is on the cusp and it remains to be seen if people will do what needs to be done to slow the spread or whether more restrictions will need to be put in place there. The proportion of new cases identified in the city that are variants of concern now ranges between 30 and 40 percent.
While Merriman said during the update that he thinks the vaccination program is quickly approaching the point where there will be enough people vaccinated that they can begin to relax the restrictions but according to the numbers released today only 53% of Saskatchewan residents over the age of 50 have received their first dose of vaccine. The number of “shots in the arm” need to be much higher before we can even think that we are ahead of the virus.
The statistics shared today show that there are 288 new cases of COVID-19 to report in Saskatchewan on April 13, bringing the provincial total to 36,892 cases. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 271 (22.1 new cases per 100,000). Unfortunately, there are two new deaths reported today with both deaths reported in the Regina zone from the 30-39 and 60-69 age groups.
Two hundred and two (202) people are in hospital. One hundred and sixty-one (161) people are receiving inpatient care: Far North West (2), Far North East (1), North West (2), North Central (8), North East (1), Saskatoon (47), Central East (10), Regina (80), South West (3) and South East (7). Forty-one (41) people are in intensive care: North Central (2), Saskatoon (6), Central East (2), Regina (28), South West (1) and South Central (2).
Minister Merriman stated in response to a question from the media that the government is considering opening a drive thru clinic in Saskatoon similar to the one in Regina at Evraz Place. The logistics of opening such a clinic need to be worked out, such as the reassignment of the AstraZeneca to booked appointments because of the age restrictions related to that vaccine. The Regina drive-thru clinic has expanded eligibility to include all residents aged 49-54 years only. The clinic located at Evraz Place on the Regina Exhibition grounds, is open from 8:30 am to 11 pm daily.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder