News Saskatchewan updating COVID-19 measures on several fronts SHARE ON: Dan Soul, staff Friday, Sep. 10th, 2021 Saskatchewan Legislature [Photo: File] The Saskatchewan Government and SHA have announced some updates regarding self-isolation, vaccination, testing and surge capacity, as the fight continues against the fourth COVID-19 wave. The province says these measures will address pressures impacting the health system, and expand access to COVID-19 testing, verifiable proof of vaccination record and booster doses. It also seeks to clearly outline self-isolation requirements. Province mandates 10-day self-isolation for COVID-19 positive people, vaccinated or not The first part of the joint announcement was the mandatory self-isolation of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, for a ten-day period. Unvaccinated close contacts of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 will also be mandated to self-isolate for a ten-day period. Previously, this self-isolation was recommended, now it’s mandatory. Those who are fully vaccinated will not have to self isolate if they’re a close contact but still need to self-monitor and seek testing at the first sign of COVID-19 symptoms. Asymptomatic Testing options, booster vaccine eligibility to be expanded Health officials will be expanding third-party contracted testing service providers and are procuring additional publicly funded testing resources. The province says by working with these providers, citizens will get easier access to testing items like rapid antigen tests from the federal government, of which a shipment of 500,000, half of the federal allotment, is coming late next week. The tests will be available to several groups, including: long-term care and personal care facilities shelters and group homes health care workers, dentists, first responders and pharmacists Businesses for workplace screening Schools, so students under the age of 12 and their families can use them for at-home testing. The province notes that expanding this access frees up the SHA testing centre and lab capacity for symptomatic cases or tests that need quick PCR results. With the Government already making booster doses available to immunocompromised people and long-term care residents, Saskatchewan will soon start providing widespread access to booster doses for the broader public, should people want or need them. This will start in October with seniors, expanding to more ages throughout the winter. Details explaining eligibility for boosters, sequencing, federal allotment and timing of booster administration will be upcoming in the near future. Verifiable Proof of Vaccination Record to drop around Sept. 20th, vaccines will be mandatory for all SHA employees Saskatchewan says a take-along version of someone’s proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be launched during the week of September 20. Residents who are currently registered for eHealth Saskatchewan’s My Sask Health Record will be able to download their vaccine record, including a unique QR code, and protect personal health information. Anyone needing to see proof of vaccination will be able to scan this record without retaining or viewing any of someone’s personal health information. The SHA has also announced that policies for proof of vaccination which were in place for certain frontline health care workers will now apply to all SHA employees. Consultations to develop the policy and implementation plan of proof of vaccination or a negative test are currently underway. Health system surge capacity, labour mobility and contact tracing workforce are all to be expanded A reduction in non-critical or elective services in order to expand surge capacity in the health system is now in place. The SHA says this reduction will be in the same vein as previous ones and is in place to create capacity for acute or urgent services. These disruptions will be as localized as possible, they note and will be lifted as quickly as possible as well. They will also be buying up 8,500 MRI and CT scans from private providers and providing an additional 2,300 scans in smaller hospitals. They add they will continue to increase service volumes throughout their imaging facilities, and be making appointments accessible to patients who are open to visiting centres outside of their home communities. Health officials and the government are working with workers’ unions to create flexibility in scheduling, which would allow placing health care workers in areas experiencing surges in capacity pressures. This was previously in place under a letter of understanding which ended with the provincial state of emergency. If an agreement can’t be reached, the province says they’re prepared to sign another Provincial Emergency Order, which would reactivate emergency labour mobility. The SHA and several government bodies are also recruiting private contact tracing resources. When this transition occurs, the government says this will help mitigate increases in case volumes. No vaccine or mask mandate to be in place right now, says Premier Scott Moe Premier Scott Moe also announced Friday that masking and vaccination will continue to not be mandated. However, he and Doctor Saqib Shahab did continue to urge vaccination for the good of all the public’s health. Moe argues that the choice to not get vaccinated no longer impacts just the people who don’t get the shot, but also those around them, exposing the possibility of severe outcomes. He also pointed to the strain on health care workers and the availability of hospital beds as negative outcomes as well. Dr Shahab added that they’re seeing an “unthinkable situation of increased hospitalization and death” given the availability of vaccines and noted a surge coming without a course correction. He noted that people should get vaccinated whenever possible, and talk to friends and family to encourage them to get the COVID-19 vaccination as well, so protection can be ramped up across the province.