Health officials have identified 42 new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, marking the biggest single day increase to its total case count since the start of the pandemic.
Previously, the most daily cases Saskatchewan had reported was on May 4 with 32 infections.
Of the most recent patients, 31 of them were identified in the South, six in the Central region, four in the Saskatoon region and one in the North. Warren Kaeding, Saskatchewan’s minister of rural and remote health, said the vast majority of new cases are related to a growing outbreak among Hutterite communities in southwest and west central Saskatchewan.
“The Saskatchewan Health Authority is working closely with Hutterian Safety Council, local moderate leadership, local municipalities and the business community to control the further spread of the virus. Of course, this includes aggressive testing and contact tracing, which has detected these positive cases and will likely find many more in the days ahead,” Kaeding said.
“They’ve done a lot of their own limitations… I have talked to community leadership, and they certainly appreciate the efforts that Hutterites are doing to minimize the risk to outside of their communities and into the surrounding communities.”
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan Health Authority updated its list of 14 rural municipalities and areas that have increased risk of COVID-19 transmission, with cases “on a number of Hutterite communities in these municipalities.” Health officials in Saskatchewan and Alberta have asked people to not discriminate against Hutterite communities, with some cases in Alberta also linked to colonies as a result of interprovincial travel.
Due to the recent increase in cases, officials have implemented visitor restrictions at Cypress Regional Hospital and at long-term care homes in southwest and west central Saskatchewan. The Swift Current hospital will only allow family members for compassionate reasons, while visitation for long-term care homes will be restricted to outdoor visits and end-of-life care.
Kaeding said that at the moment stricter measures are not needed, but they may be considered moving forward. In April, the government restricted travel to and from the Far North due to an increase in cases. Kaeding said northern communities requested the restrictions, but Hutterite colonies haven’t.
“If we were not getting the cooperation, the tremendous cooperation we have been with Hutterites in particular, we would maybe have to consider something like that,” said Kaeding.
Initially, in mid-June, there was resistance to testing and the implementation of adequate COVID-19 protocols after outbreaks were declared in two Hutterite colonies inside the rural municipality of Maple Creek. But that has since changed, with colonies inviting health officials into their communities.
“The big change was coming to them instead of having to bring everybody to us,” which “has been one of the reasons why we’re finding the cases which we need to know about,” said Scott Livingstone, the health authority’s chief executive officer.
The most recent update of 42 infections increases the province’s total case count to 923. That includes 794 people who have recovered, up by three since Wednesday.
Of the 114 active cases that remain, 49 of them are in the South and 40 are in the Central region of the province.
There are now only four active cases in the Far North, which is home to 339 of Saskatchewan’s cases throughout the pandemic. The La Loche community, which was the province’s epicentre, has zero active cases as of Wednesday evening.
Eleven people are currently in hospital, up by three since Wednesday, while there remain two patients in intensive care.
To date, 78,851 COVID‐19 tests have been performed in Saskatchewan, after health officials completed 2,157 tests in their latest 24-hour stretch.