Premier Moe announced now that 43 per cent of adults have been vaccinated, it’s time to start talking about opening the province back up. Moe announced Monday that the provinces “roadmap to recovery” will be based around vaccination rates. The vaccination rate in the province leads the country, Moe said in the press conference today. “This is not only a re-opening plan. It’s also a plan to encourage people to get vaccinated and to keep following all the public health orders and guidelines. Those are the two things we all need to do in order to move forward through the three steps of re-opening so we can enjoy a great Saskatchewan summer and get back to normal.”
The Re-opening Roadmap is based on vaccination thresholds, vaccine availability, and timing between each step. Step One will come into effect three weeks after 70 per cent of individuals age 40 and over have received the first dose of COVID -19 vaccine and eligibility has become open to all adults aged 18 and over throughout the province. Currently 65 per cent of those 40 and over have received their first shot. Step Two will come into effect once three weeks have passed since 70 per cent people in the age 30 to 40 age group have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and at least three weeks have passed since the beginning of Step One. Currently 53 per cent of those 30 and over have received their first shot. Finally, Step Three will come into effect three weeks after 70 per cent of people age 18 and over have received their first dose of vaccine and at least three weeks have passed since the beginning of Step Two. Currently that percentage rate stands at 44 %.
Based on the current pace of vaccinations, it is estimated that Saskatchewan could enter Step One about the last week in May, Step Two the third week in June and Step Three the second week in July. These are estimates only. Three weeks is used as a buffer between the threshold and the easing of public health measures as it is the length of time it takes for an individual to achieve the necessary immune response to a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. “May and June will be blockbuster months when it comes to vaccine,” Dr. Shahab said. He stated that second doses will be starting in June and that the vaccination program for second shots will be quicker and more compressed than it was for the first shots. “We need to achieve the highest vaccination rate possible to protect ourselves and those in our province who are unable to receive a vaccine,” Dr. Shahab stated. When questioned about the supply of AstraZeneca and whether there would be enough for second doses, neither Dr Shahab nor Scott Livingstone, felt there would be a problem having enough of a supply to deliver second doses to all who have received it as a first dose. However, Dr. Shahab stated that the United Kingdom is studying the effectiveness of mixing doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer and that information should be available by June.
Step One will see the cautious easing of public health measures across the province, including bringing Regina and the surrounding communities in line with public health orders that apply to the rest of the province. Changes to the public health orders in Step one will include:
In Step Two public health measures are planned to ease in the following manner:
In Step Three, it is expected that most remaining restrictions will be lifted, but guidance on gathering sizes and indoor masking will be developed based on what occurs in the first two steps.
It will continue to be crucial to have a high testing rate to make sure that as restrictions begin to ease there is not an uptick in cases. Hospitalization rates will continue to be monitored and if pressure begins to mount again, a re-opening step may be paused to address any transmission trends at the regional or provincial levels. “None of us can underestimate COVID,” Dr. Shahab stated. It is not going to go away, and we are going to have to learn to live with this virus. Simply because we in Saskatchewan get vaccinated, there are many around the world who will still be waiting, but the vaccine will allow us to begin living a life that we are more accustomed to.