Saskatchewan reports more COVID-19 cases, guidelines for schools

REGINA — Saskatchewan health officials reported more COVID-19 cases Thursday as the province announced some guidelines for when students return to school in September.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said there were 15 new cases — 14 of them in the southern region — of the novel coronavirus. The infections were connected to an outbreak at two Hutterite communities in the Rural Municipality of Maple Creek, which is near the Alberta boundary.

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Two members of a rural household in the area initially tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and contact tracing is underway, officials said.

"Cases are being investigated for connection to interprovincial travel to Alberta, as well as travel in the area," a news release from the province said. "The remaining new case is in the far north region."

There were 59 active cases, bringing the total in Saskatchewan since the pandemic began to 708. A total of 636 people have recovered.

Two people were in hospital with the virus, one of them in intensive care.

The province also said that students from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 will be able to return to their classrooms on Sept. 1.

"As we return to normal activities within our daily lives, we want to ensure that our school communities have time to prepare for new health and safety requirements," Education Minister Gordon Wyant said in a statement.

"These guidelines reinforce minimizing physical contact while maintaining a school atmosphere that’s as normal and comfortable as possible."

The guidelines, which the province said were developed under direction of the chief medical health officer, include sending students or staff home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 and increased sanitation.

"This includes the availability of hand sanitizer wherever possible, establishing clear protocols for bringing supplementary school materials such as backpacks and school supplies in and out of schools, and planning for minimized contact among students and staff as much as possible," the province said.

"As this is a highly evolving situation, the guidelines may be updated and adjusted depending on the impact of COVID-19 and the feedback of education partners in our province prior to the beginning of the school year."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2020

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