Sask. government resists health officials' calls to reinstate some COVID-19 protocols
Medical health officers (MHOs) issued a series of recommendations to the Government of Saskatchewan on how best to address rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Those recommendations went largely unmentioned by the premier and health officials during the province’s first live COVID-19 update in nearly two months.
As Saskatchewan reported its highest seven-day average of daily new cases since May 3 on Monday, with 19 per 100,000 people, senior medical health officer Dr. Cory Neudorf issued recommendations to the province on behalf of the Saskatchewan MHOs.
The experts urged the province to reinstate mandatory masking in indoor public spaces, mandatory isolation of cases and close contacts, require proof of vaccination for provincial and municipal government employees and entry to nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and other recreational venues.
During Monday’s virtual news conference, Premier Scott Moe echoed statements made by Health Minister Paul Merriman last week, who said the government will neither reinstate COVID-19 restrictions nor will it enforce vaccine requirements as the province battles the pandemic’s fourth wave.
Officials announced Monday they will roll out a proof of COVID-19 vaccination document and begin delivering booster shots on Sept. 7.
It will remain up to individual businesses and venues to mandate proof of vaccination.
Frontline health care workers will also be asked to provide proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing. The details of the plan are still under development, the province said.
Moe continued to push back against the idea of implementing the virus-related protocols recommended by the MHOs, saying policy proposals need to be “operable”.
“It's not implementing the heavy hand of government on citizens if you will, nor do I think that is the appropriate fashion for government to act,” Moe said.
“This is a much more collaborative approach and we feel it will have every success as the implemented approach.”
The province’s chief medical health officer said he hopes that responsible decisions are being made on the individual level to slow the spread of the virus.
“Going forward [individuals] have to adjust when we see trends, right now we are seeing a surge mostly in the far north and Saskatoon so obviously there may be a more consistent increase in mask use in crowded spaces,” Shahab theorized.
“We hope vaccine uptake increases and we know people for the most part are adjusting how they behave.”
Shahab said he is confident that individuals are adjusting their habits based on increasing case numbers, like reintroducing mask use and limiting social gatherings.