As Sask. re-opens, personal interactions grow

REGINA — Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says people are coming in contact with one another more often now that the province has begun to re-open.

Shahab, speaking with reporters Thursday about the COVID-19 pandemic, said the province is finding that people who recently tested positive for the virus have been in contact with many others.

When the province was in lockdown, there were fewer personal interactions, he said.

“What we’re seeing now is more cases generating contacts because we aren’t in lockdown,” he said. “We are finding that as people are out and about again, people are again having a lot of contacts.”

In Prince Albert, for example, Shahab said six people in the region who tested positive were in contact with more than 100 people.

He said of the roughly 800 total cases in the province, there have been 6,000 contacts associated with them.

When people come in contact with each other more frequently, he said, it makes it challenging for health authorities to investigate the spread.

Shahab urged people to stick with safety precautions. That includes not visiting many people outside the family co-hort, physical distancing of two metres, wearing a mask in closer scenarios, washing hands frequently, and staying home if unwell.

“If our number of contacts start increasing, the risk of transmission starts increasing,” he said.

During the update, Shahab provided new data that better outlines which settings the virus spreads in.

He said as of July 2, 402 cases were contacts to known cases.  

Of that number, 288 cases spread within the household, and 114 cases occurred in settings outside the home.

He said 45 cases were connected to mass gatherings.

Shahab said if more people start getting the virus in settings outside the home and in mass gatherings, the province may have to re-think its guidelines.

However, he said he doesn’t want Saskatchewan to re-enter a full lockdown.

Shahab said the province could expect more pop-up incidents of the virus going forward.

But if people practice safety, he said, the risk of small surges would be low.

When the fall and winter arrives, people will have to be cautious because the virus spreads more easily indoors.

During the cold months, there will need to be better ventilation in buildings, along with the various other measures to keep people safe, Shahab said.

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