'We have a serious situation': Saskatoon mayor calls on province to tighten COVID-19 rules to turn back variants
SASKATOON -- Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark is urging the province to implement more restrictions, as COVID-19 cases rise and the city reports its first case of a new variant.
The city is nearing 500 active cases and the highly contagious P1 variant, first found in Brazil, was detected in Saskatoon earlier this week.
The province does not share how many active cases are linked to variant COVID-19 strains.
“I think the writing is on the wall that we have a serious situation ahead of us,” Clark told CTV News.
“I’d rather take steps now, have tighter restrictions in place to try and save as many lives as possible. Hopefully, by taking steps early, we can have a shorter lockdown and have less impact on the economy.”
Clark worries Saskatoon is on the brink of Regina’s dire COVID-19 situation.
Regina's active case count sat at 794 as of Thursday's provincial update, while Saskatoon had 482 active cases.
Over the past month, the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in Regina’s ICUs has more than doubled.
“Now is the time to put restrictions in place and not wait until the ICUs in Saskatoon are full,” the mayor said.
Clark said he expressed the need for more restrictions on Tuesday during a call with Saskatchewan’s Minister of Government Relations Don McMorris.
On the same day, for this first time since Regina's variant cases began soaring, Saskatoon reported more new cases of COVID-19 than anywhere else in the province.
CTV News has contacted the province for comment and is awaiting a response.
Cory Neudorf, an epidemiology and public health professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said stricter restrictions are needed to avoid a COVID-19 spike.
“We’re playing chicken with the virus at this point,” Neudorf said.
He said, at the minimum, Saskatoon should tighten restrictions to Regina’s level — ban indoor dining at restaurants, and close theatres and libraries
As of Thursday's update, Saskatoon had a cumulative reported total of 730 variant cases, up from 560 a week prior on April 22.
The latest wastewater analysis in Saskatoon indicates a significant spike in COVID-19 cases could be on the horizon.
Based on the research team's results, 86 percent of the viral RNA load in wastewater was contributed by the B.1.1.7 variant of concern.
The B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in the U.K., accounts for the vast majority of cases in Saskatchewan where the strain has been identified.
Health officials said the variant can spread faster than the original coronavirus strain.
A study released earlier in March also showed the B.1.1.7 variant may also result in a higher rate of death.
On Tuesday, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said Saskatoon is "on red alert" following the rise in variant cases, but stopped short of saying there should be increased public health measures.
"If required, specific measures may be needed. But at the end of the day you know it is our individual actions, especially when we're out and about, minimize unnecessary visits to public indoor places, order more takeout. Use curbside pickup whenever you can," Shahab said.
The province said it hasn’t ruled out the idea of adding more restrictions.
In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Health said it “may consider further expansion of public health measures” depending on the COVID-19 trends and advice from health officials.