'Increased risk of transmission:' Saskatchewan has highest daily COVID-19 cases

REGINA — Saskatchewan has recorded its highest daily total of COVID-19 cases, and the minister for rural health is urging residents in the southwest and west-central regions to hunker down to help limit spread.

Warren Kaeding says the outbreak encompasses Hutterite colonies and a number of rural municipalities, including Maple Creek and Biggar, as well as the city of Swift Current.

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Forty-two new cases of the infection were reported Thursday.

"The (Saskatchewan Health Authority) is working closely ... with local Hutterite leadership, local municipalities and the business community to control further spread of the virus," Kaeding said at a briefing.

More aggressive testing and contact tracing will be crucial to containing cases and "will likely find many more in the days ahead," he added.

Visits that had resumed at long-term care homes are being temporarily restricted to the outdoors or end-of-life situations in the affected areas.

People are being encouraged to stay home, limit interpersonal contacts and self-isolate if they feel sick or have been in contact with someone who might have COVID-19.

However, the province isn't moving to shut anything down.

"At this point, we're not issuing any new public health orders or ordering any closures specific to that area," Kaeding said.

The outbreak is a reminder that the novel coronavrius is still with us, he said, and "once it starts to spread can spread quickly."

Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the Saskatchewan Party government needs to expand testing and make masks available to everyone in the province.

"Today's record jump in cases is extremely concerning and should be a wake-up call for all of us," he said.

Of the 42 cases new cases, 31 were in the south, six were in the central region, four were in the Saskatoon area and one was in the north.

The total number of cases in the province since the pandemic began has hit 923: 114 of those are currently active and 11 people are in hospital.

Some 794 people have recovered and 15 patients have died.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2020

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