Dr. Shahab recommending masks be worn indoors through to spring

Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab is recommending that people continue to mask indoors through to March to avoid any potential of COVID surges over the coming winter months.

With Saskatchewan’s current Public Health Order currently in effect until November 30, Dr. Shahab said that modelling shows the importance of continuing to mask at a time when numbers could again quickly surge.

“Certainly we’re not out of the woods yet in terms of our fourth wave,” he said during a media availability on November 23. “And it takes a longer duration for our acute care and hospital numbers to go down.”

Dr. Shahab said the masking advice is important in portions of the province where vaccination numbers lag. He noted that the Southwest was one of the regions where COVID case numbers remain higher than other parts of the province according to the seven day average by geography.

Even with lower overall COVID case numbers, statistically every 100 cases generate five hospital admissions and one ICU admission, so in the short term masking remains a key strategy while new cases remain low enough for the health system to fully recuperate.

“Yes, continue to use your mask indoors throughout the winter, well into March.”

Dr. Shahab said Saskatchewan’s lower COVID totals were also reflected by the effectiveness of the Proof of Vaccination requirements that are currently in place.

“We’ve seen how powerful proof of vaccination is. This is not a fall and winter like last year. We are having concerts, we having games with thousands of people attending. As far as we can see, as long as there’s the proof of vaccination or negative test results being used in these large gatherings, we are not seeing for the most part, large transmission chains.”

The said Saskatchewan residents can do so much more this winter with high vaccination rates and rapid testing tools to ensure COVID exposure potential remains low.

“It is a much safer situation with many things remaining open. But certainly any where where POV (proof of vaccine) is not required by the Public Health Order I would still strongly recommend it whether it’s a private function or any other setting.”

“For the most part that’s been well supported. But then again there’s all this push back by a small minority for reasons I don’t fully understand anymore because I think the fourth wave showed very dramatically and unfortunately, and the personal stories that I’ve seen over the last few days are heartbreaking – young middle age parents falling ill and in some cases during. It’s still hard to understand why a significant minority remains unvaccinated. But I think with even a small proportion of the population unvaccinated we can still, as I showed in the modelling last week, we can still see significant surges.”