REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Health Authority is implementing daily temperature checks and mask usage for all staff working in its facilities as part of its plan to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The twice daily temperature checks will come into effect on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said the health authority is still working within the modelling released to the public last week.

“(We’re) continuing our current path of planning for the worst and aiming for the best,” Livingstone said.

On Tuesday, the province announced only one new case of COVID-19. Livingstone said Saskatchewan is in a strong position to respond to the challenges of the virus.

“The key variable for saving lives and protecting health-care workers is public compliance with isolation measures, physical distancing, hand washing and staying home when sick,” he said. “It remains a daunting and uncertain time for all of us.

Modelling released last week

Last Wednesday, the SHA presented three modelling scenarios estimating anywhere from 153,000 to 408,000 COVID-19 infections over the course of the pandemic. The models also estimated between 3,075 to 8,370 deaths from the virus.

The SHA said last week it’s too early to know which of the three scenarios the province is currently operating in.

The report highlighted the importance of following public health orders in order to manage the “what if” scenarios presented.

The models also presented plans to create field hospitals, if needed, in Regina and Saskatoon.

Livingstone said health officials are continuously adjusting the models based on the data available.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen next week,” he said.

New models will be released as they become available, Livingstone said. The plan will be adjusted based on the new models.

Spaces available at hospitals

There are currently 50 per cent of the province’s ICU beds available, Livingstone said on Tuesday. He also said there are more than 1,000 acute care beds available for patients coming into hospitals.

The beds are available because of the SHA’s decision to stop elective surgeries.

“The plan is still in place to significantly increase those services in the coming days,” Livinstone said.

Long-term care facilities

The new measures will be phased into all SHA facilities, including long-term care homes, hospitals, primary care sites and affiliates. The screening includes temperature checks twice a day. Staff are also asked to self-monitor for any symptoms.

Livingstone said the SHA is considering a plan that may limit health-care workers to one facility, but that plan isn’t in place yet.

“We hope to have strategies in place that will likely include cohorting staff,” he said.

Around 20 per cent of long-term care staff work in more than one facility, Livingstone said.

He added the plan will help protect the workers and the facility residents, while also maintaining care for people in the facilities.

SHA has PPE available

Livingstone said there is still around one month of PPE available to health-care workers in the province. He said the SHA is monitoring daily usage across the province.

The health authority has also greatly increased its ordering of protective equipment.

Still too early to lift measures

The province’s chief medical health officer said Tuesday that it’s still too soon to know when things can go back to normal.

“We are extremely happy with the way our curve is going,” Dr. Saqib Shahab said. “We all understand there are certain high-risks in the province we need to manage.”
On Monday, Premier Scott Moe said work has begun on a plan to re-open the province. That plan focuses on increased testing and contact tracing.

If case numbers remain steady, Moe expects to release some of that plan next week.

“It’s still up to all of us to stay the course for the next little while, and then see what measures can be relaxed while minimizing risk,” Shahab said.

Shahab also said the province is closely monitoring other provinces that are ahead of Saskatchewan in their curve.

“This issue will not go away in the next little while,” Shahab said. “We have to realize things can very quickly surge back.”

The health authority says the public still needs to follow all health orders, including practicing good hygiene, following mandatory self-isolation orders, not attending large gatherings, using medical supplies efficiently and avoiding visiting long-term care facilities except for compassionate reasons.