For much of the past few months, Saskatchewan residents have done a pretty good job of navigating through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a tribute to our diligence that this province was the first to announce plans to re-open the economy. And while those plans have generated some frustration – some have viewed them as being too slow, while others have viewed them as too aggressive, or being out of order – generally the government’s steps have made sense.
There were concerns about a spike in cases due to the re-open plan, but it was worth noting that we had less than a dozen cases in the first week of June, and from May 18 to June 7, there were five days in which we didn’t have new cases.
Clearly the government didn’t move too quickly.
A couple of larger activities in Estevan in early June – the Black Lives Matter protest and the Estevan Comprehensive School grad cruise – didn’t yield any confirmed cases, either. These weren’t large-scale events, with thousands or even tens of thousands of people packed into a venue or a tight area, but they were proof that if you did things the right way, and took necessary precautions, you could have a public gathering and not add to the COVID caseload.
What we were doing was working, and we were slowly seeing services return. Not to their normal levels, but they were coming back.
Sadly, we have seen a surge in the number of people with COVID-19 in the past few weeks, with Hutterite communities the source of many of those cases.
Once upon a time, we had few COVID cases in the south region. In fact, we went seven weeks, from early April to late May without a diagnosed COVID case. Then we had a couple, but since the south region is about the size of Nova Scotia, it wasn’t a source for alarm.
Of greater concern for this region was that the lack of COVID cases resulted in complacency for some, and downright ludicrous thoughts shared among others. They seemed to think that since we didn’t have COVID diagnosed here, there wasn’t COVID anywhere.
The last few weeks have seen the number of cases in the south soar. There are now more cases in the south than in the densely populated Saskatoon area. The central region, which also did well for so long in the fight against COVID-19, has seen an increase in cases.
One day Saskatchewan had 60 cases. Other days the case load has topped 40. These were the kind of numbers that we expected to see at the start of the pandemic, but didn’t, because most people took the warnings about the virus seriously.
You can be sure that the Hutterite communities feel awful about what has happened, and for how there are people who have become sick and have been hospitalized because of their actions.
At the same time, it was worth noting that as of Friday, 189 of 220 cases in the south are from the southwest region. That means 31 cases are from the rest of the south.
For the first time, the Ministry of Health issued an advisory about potential transmission in the southeast, after someone who tested positive for COVID spent three hours at the Bar Bar in Kenosee Lake. That certainly set off alarm bells for people in this part of the province.
And we’re hearing lots of rumours about cases in Weyburn and Estevan.
All of this serves as a reminder that we have to be diligent. We can get together with friends, have fun and enjoy the summer, but we have to watch how we do it. Keep your distance. Minimize touch points.
Enjoy travel this summer, whether it be in-province or out-of-province. But be very cognizant of where you go and when you’re there.
If you don’t feel well, stay home.
Southern Saskatchewan isn’t the only part of the country that’s seen a spike in cases recently.
But if we all do our part, we can once again have the number of cases to a more manageable level, and have other countries looking at us and wondering what we’re doing right.