Saskatchewan is updating its long-term COVID-19 precautions, as the province continues the transition from pandemic to endemic times.
The government says they’re issuing the suggestive guidance so that the province can continue transitioning back to normal life and limit the spread of COVID-19 without having to return to the widespread public health restrictions in place in times before the vaccines were widely available.
Many facets of these endemic priorities will revolve around school, as students and staff make their return in September.
Saskatchewan says masks will not be mandatory in schools, but still advised in common areas
The province will not mandate masks in school, but it is still recommended that unvaccinated staff and students wear them in common areas such as hallways, bathrooms, lunchrooms, libraries and on the school bus.
This is also being recommended for kids under 12, as no Health Canada approved vaccine is available for them. Students over 12 are being recommended to get vaccinated to protect these younger people.
Once students under 12 are seated in their classes, or when they’re outside doing activities like gym and recess, there will be no recommendation saying they should be masked.
The Saskatchewan Government will be revisiting these recommendations once vaccines are approved and widely available to children under the age of 12, after which they’ll factor in increased immunity within the student population.
Vaccination programs will be available in schools, all students born 2009 or earlier will have access
The Saskatchewan Health Authority will also offer school-based vaccination clinics, which will run much like they did at the end of the last school year.
The province says this will help students or staff who have not been vaccinated, or who have only been vaccinated with a single dose, gain access to the shots.
The province also says, new this year, anyone turning 12 in the current year is immediately eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination at any site, including pop-up clinics, participating pharmacies, or school-based vaccination clinics.
This means anyone born in 2009 can get it now, regardless of birth date.
Province to develop COVID-19 testing kits to be handed out in schools, will add this on to ongoing testing initiatives
Saskatchewan will continue providing direct options for COVID-19 testing, as the virus continues to impact especially the unvaccinated population of the province.
This means people can still get tested if they’re either showing symptoms or not, contact tracing will continue and self-isolation when necessary.
When cases are identified in schools, schools and school divisions will continue to be notified by public health officials in order to inform students and parents, as well as guide them on the next steps.
The Government adds health officials are also working on a self-administration pilot, which would look to provide self-administered rapid tests for families who may wish to screen for COVID-19 on an ongoing basis.
The kits, and instructions on how to use them, would be provided to families via their students’ schools. Information regarding this project will soon be sent out to school divisions. The province notes these are expected to be allocated to areas of the province where COVID transmission is highest.
While the SHA will continue to suggest testing at the first sign of COVID-19 symptoms will continue, the pilot rapid testing program will determine the public interest in rapid tests as a self-administered asymptomatic screening tool.
Saskatchewan also plans development of “Standing COVID-19 Vaccination Plan”
With vaccine efforts shifted to targeted vaccinations, the province plans to create a standing COVID-19 vaccination plan.
They add that this is in anticipation of further health authorities’ guidance on booster shots as a possibility to maximize how effective the vaccine is.
If it is announced that COVID-19 boosters are needed annually like a flu shot, or on any other timeline, the province says the plan will be adaptable and the health system will be ready to enact if booster shots are recommended, when they are provided.
Population priority sequencing, mass-vaccination venues, and anticipated vaccination timelines dependent on the volume of vaccines received will all be considered in the development of this standing plan.