'We will lose lives': Saskatoon mayor asks residents to take extra COVID-19 precautions as variant cases surge
SASKATOON -- On Thursday afternoon, city officials called a virtual news conference to address the rise of variant COVID-19 cases in Saskatoon.
"We will lose lives if we don't take steps right now," Mayor Charlie Clark said in his opening remarks.
While Clark said the city isn't able to implement restrictions beyond those imposed by the province, he encouraged residents to voluntarily take extra measures.
"I am asking residents to go above and beyond the restrictions for these next weeks ahead. It's simply a time to be careful with everything you do," Clark said.
Clark said the city would support further restrictions from the provincial government.
Medical Health Officer Dr. Jasmine Hasselback said all unnecessary travel needs to stop.
She asked people to keep gatherings to just their household, as prescribed by the current public health order.
"Unfortunately we continue to see those occur," she said.
If contact with others is necessary, people should wear a mask, keep their distance and keep visits short, she said.
The city has also recently seen a migration back into the office, which has had consequences, according to Hasselback. Any workplace can be affected, from a single desk at a typical office to larger settings, she said.
"No workplace is immune except for your home office."
Workplaces should reduce the number of people in the workplace to those who are essential, she said.
"If you can work from home, work from home"
If staff have to be there, they should follow public health guidance. They should also take lunch breaks outside where they can maintain social distance while eating with their masks off, she said.
"We are all very concerned about the current situation," said Saskatoon's emergency management director Pamela Goulden-McLeod said during the news conference.
'Workplaces are one of the greatest outbreak sources," Goulden-McLeod said.
Goulden-McLeod said employees should remember that they are legally entitled to a safe place of work.
"The public health orders are just very bare minimum requirements. So just because you can do something under the Public Health order doesn't mean that right was the right time to do it.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority has warned about an increased risk of COVID-19 variants in the Saskatoon area.
As of Wednesday, the city had 328 Variant of Concern cases.
"We are very concerned that Saskatoon (variant) case numbers are trending up," Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said on Tuesday.