Here's what's changed in the two months since Sask.'s first COVID-19 case
REGINA -- Saskatchewan detected its first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 on March 12.
The person, who was in their 60s, had just returned to Saskatoon from Egypt.
Since then, the province has announced 573 cases of COVID-19. As of May 12, 193 of those cases were considered active. There have been 374 recoveries and six deaths in Saskatchewan.
Here’s what’s changed in the two months since Saskatchewan’s first case.
Saskatchewan declares state of emergency
Premier Scott Moe declared a state of emergency in Saskatchewan on March 18. Moe has extended the state of emergency every two weeks and it will remain in place until at least May 13.
That same day, Moe dissolved the legislature and announced non-essential Crown employees would start working from home the following week.
Finance minister predicts billions in lost revenue
Saskatchewan’s finance minister says the province could see potential revenue decline of $1.3 billion to $3.3 billion due to the pandemic.
Donna Harpauer released those figures on April 17 based on three modelling scenarios showing the affect of COVID-19 on Saskatchewan’s economy.
“Right now, almost everything is out of our control. The responsibility we need to take is in the recovery,” Harpauer said when the numbers were announced. “We want to make sure there are jobs to come back to when this is over.”
The province rolled out a scaled-back budget on March 18, showing spending without revenue forecasts.
On Monday, Moe said house leaders are discussing the possibility of returning to the legislature as long as it can be done safely. He also said the province will provide further revenue estimates ahead of the provincial election expected in October.
Sask. closes its schools
Saskatchewan schools closed on March 20, moving to a plan for online learning for their students.
When the school closures were announced, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the closures would help prevent community transmission in the province.
Last week, the Ministry of Education announced schools would stay closed for the rest of this school year.
“We needed to move quickly and decisively in order to protect our students, staff and families, and within a matter of weeks, a supplemental learning framework was created to provide students with learning opportunities from their home. I am very pleased with the success we have seen using this new way of delivering education to our students and I commend teachers, staff and parents for adapting quickly and enthusiastically," Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant said in a news release.
The ministry says it is working on a plan to celebrate Grade 8 farewells and Grade 12 graduations amid the pandemic.
Mandatory self-isolation after travel becomes law
Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada needs to self-isolate for 14 days.
“This is not a suggestion, this is not a guideline, this is now the law,” Moe said at a press conference on March 20.
Anyone failing to self-isolate could face fines of up to $2,000.
Businesses close their doors
Saskatchewan businesses closed up shop in March as the pandemic continued to work its way through the province.
Gyms, bars, restaurants, hair dressers and retail shops closed all front-facing services. Many moved online, using contactless pick up or delivery to stay operating under the new restrictions.
Essential businesses that remained open changed how they operated in order to keep customers and staff safe. Many grocery stores introduced physical distancing measures and the province encouraged residents to only go to the store once a week to cut down on store traffic. Shoppers are also encouraged to make a list ahead of time and go alone when making their weekly trips to the store.
Sask. releases five-phase plan to reopen economy
Saskatchewan’s premier addressed the province in a rare televised address on April 22, laying out a five-phase plan to reopen the economy.
The full plan was released on April 23 and has been updated twice since then.
“Our government takes this decision extremely seriously,” Moe said while addressing Saskatchewan residents. “We know there are risks on both sides. If we move too quickly, we risk increasing the spread of COVID-19. If we move too slowly, we risk permanent damage to the livelihoods of thousands of Saskatchewan people.”
The first phase of the plan came into effect on May 4. Medical services closed under the public health orders were now allowed to see patients, as long as they followed strict guidelines on physical distancing and personal protective equipment.
Phase two of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan is scheduled for May 19. This phase will allow retailers and hair dressers to begin operations, also under strict guidelines.
The final three phases don’t have dates. The province says a timeline will be released based on the success of the first phases.
Gatherings limited to 10 people
The Saskatchewan government cracked down on large gatherings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Gatherings were capped at 250 people, then 50, before the province limited them at a maximum of 10 people.
Gathering restrictions will stay in place until the fifth phase of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan, although group sizes will expand to 15 people in phase three and 30 people in phase four.
The province says people can form virtual households with one or two other groups, as long as the group size is still under 10 people. As long as no one is considered high-risk for COVID-19, people in those groups don’t need to maintain two metres of physical distancing.
Shahab says the groups need to remain consistent.
Visitations, procedures restricted by SHA
The Saskatchewan Health Authority limited elective surgeries and diagnostics on March 23 in order to manage a potential influx of COVID-19 patients at the province’s hospitals.
Last week, the SHA announced a plan to phase in services in four phases. The first phase, and the only one with an assigned date, begins on May 19.
The SHA has limited visitors to all of its facilities, including hospitals and long-term care homes. People can only visit for compassionate reasons.
Travel restrictions to Sask.’s north
The province has restricted travel to northern Saskatchewan due to an outbreak in the area.
The far north region has the most confirmed and active cases of COVID-19 cases in the province. Most of those cases are the result of an outbreak in the La Loche area.
The province has restricted non-essential travel to the region and is encouraging residents to purchase in bulk if they need to leave their community for essential goods.