Here's what residents should know as Sask. heads into 2nd pandemic Thanksgiving
Saskatchewan residents are heading into their second pandemic Thanksgiving and the government has offered some recommendations for weekend gatherings.
At this time, formal gathering restrictions are have not been put in place.
The province said household gatherings are the primary source of COVID-19 transmission in Saskatchewan and asked residents to take precautions.
“Particularly for those thanksgiving diners, be mindful of gathering sizes,” said Dr. Lanre Medu, a medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).
Outdoor gatherings are encouraged as much as possible. The province said if you are holding indoor gatherings, be aware of your guests’ vaccination status. Children 12 and under are at elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission since they are not eligible for vaccination at this time.
“Don’t discount any symptoms. Don’t attend that Thanksgiving diner (if you are sick) and get tested,” said Medu.
The government added a specific warning for unvaccinated residents.
“If you are unvaccinated, you should not gather with family and friends this long weekend, as you are putting them at risk,” the province said in a news release.
Gatherings in close quarters and shared food service create a high risk for COVID-19 transmission, according to the government.
In 2020, indoor and outdoor gatherings for Thanksgiving were capped at 30 people, but the COVID-19 situation in the province is much different than it was last year.
On Oct. 5, 2020, the province had 143 active COVID-19 cases.
As of Tuesday, the Saskatchewan has 4,385 COVID-19 cases currently considered active. Case counts rose steadily through August and September, but have stabilized after a record high of 4,864 was reported on Sept. 26.
In an emailed statement, the province said it “will not be making an order to limit gathering sizes."
"The vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations are unvaccinated residents and those who are not vaccinated should get vaccinated,” the province said in the statement.
While there are no gathering restrictions in place in the province as of Tuesday, Saskatchewan’s top doctor offered a warning for residents last week.
Speaking on Sept. 29, chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said COVID-19 would have an impact on the 2021 holiday season, based on the current trajectory of cases.
“We will not only not have Thanksgiving at this rate, we will likely not have Christmas and New Years at this rate,” Dr. Shahab said Wednesday.
In 2020, the province implemented strict gathering restrictions days before Christmas. Private gatherings were limited to immediate households.
When those measures went into effect on Dec. 17, the seven-day average of new cases was half of what was recorded Wednesday and there were 126 COVID-19 patients in hospital – compared to the pandemic-high 311 recorded Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan NDP is asking the government to do more to prevent another spike after Thanksgiving, this year.
“Bring in the appropriate overall gathering size restrictions, according to the modelling, share that modelling, and give people clear instructions on thanksgiving,” said Ryan Meili, leader of the NDP.
Meili said he couldn’t speculate on what gathering restrictions would be needed, as he said this needs to come from the COVID-19 modelling date, which the government is no longer releasing.
With files from CTV Regina's Janelle Blakley