'Heading in the wrong direction': Sask. extends mask mandate, alcohol curfew, some schools move to level 3
REGINA -- Saskatchewan has extended the mask mandate to include Saskatchewan communities with a population of more than 5,000 — and smaller neighbouring communities — as part of a list of new COVID-19 restrictions.
The province has also put a curfew on alcohol sales at 10 p.m. which will last for the next 28 days. It's also recommended that some schools move to level three of the back to school plan.
The province has also updated the Reopen Saskatchewan Plan with changes for fitness facilities and hookah services.
“We all need to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously like we did in the spring,” newly appointed Health Minister Paul Merriman said. “No one wants to close businesses and put people out of work, but we need to slow down the spread of this virus.”
These changes are effective Monday, Nov. 16, for 28 days.
“Over the past few weeks we have seen a significant increase in the number of new and active cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan,” Merriman said.
“Our cases are still quite a bit lower than our neighbouring provinces, but make no mistake, our case numbers, our hospitalization numbers, the numbers of patients in ICU, all of these have been heading in the wrong direction.”
Saskatchewan’s mandatory mask order for indoor public spaces has been extended to include all communities with populations of 5,000 or greater.
The order also includes the censuses metropolitan area, situated around the urban centres of Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert, even if their populations are less than 5,000 residents. The province said these communities are being included due to their proximity to the urban centres and high rate of retail, workplace and service integration.
There are not currently any enforcement measures in place for mandatory masks, but Merriman said the province will continue to rely on compliance from Saskatchewan people.
“I think the key to any success on this is going to be compliance,” Merriman said. “If we put in regulation after regulation after regulation and there’s no compliance on it, the onus is back on the individual to be able to make sure that they are adhering to that.”
“The individual responsibility on this is the greatest responsibility out there right now, for them to make sure that they’re doing their part on making sure that their neighbours or family members, their elders are safe.”
A list of the 59 communities that fall under the mandatory mask order can be found on the government’s website.
“Health officials continue to strongly recommend all residents wear a non-medical mask anywhere outside the home as an additional measure to reduce the transmission of COVID-19,” the province said in a release.
Merriman said these new masking guidelines will affect around 65 per cent of the province. Masks were previously mandatory solely in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
The province is also recommending school divisions reducing in-class learning for some high schools.
High schools with 600 or more will be moving to level three of the province’s Safe School’s plan.
ALCOHOL SALES CURFEW
A curfew will be put into effect for all restaurants and licensed establishments.
Businesses will be required to stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m. and consumption must end by 11 p.m.
The province said there are no exceptions for private events or outdoor serving spaces.
FITNESS ACTIVITIES, HOOKAH
All aerobic group fitness activities, such as spin classes, class circuit training and aquasizing, will now be limited to a maximum of eight people.
As per previous guidelines, these activities are also only permitted if participants can be spaced out by three metres.
Hookah and waterpipe services are now not allowed. The province said if these locations are also licensed establishments or restaurants, they can continue operating in that capacity.
CASES EXPECTED TO CONTINUE RISING
Scott Livingstone, the president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said case numbers are expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks.
“The cases we see today are from two weeks ago, and as we look at our case positivity rate over this last week, we are going to see an uptick in hospitalization and ICU admissions,” Livingstone said.
Livingstone said the SHA is not planning for service slowdowns across the province, but will be shifting service in some communities.
“We will however be looking at targeted localized and time limited services slowed down, we are going to do this where it is absolutely needed to support the redeployment of staff to combat the virus, as well as maintain essential services,” Livingstone said.