REGINA — Public health officials in Saskatchewan have announced that schools will now fall under the interim masking order for public places, just days after issuing a safety warning for youth regarding the Delta COVID-19 variant.
Alongside the announcement, officials also offered a plea to parents to get vaccinated, to avoid seeing more pediatric COVID cases in the future.
Public health said an internal review of 1,643 confirmed cases of all ages, which included 334 school-aged youth, showed that 98 per cent of youth cases live in households that are not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
“Children can contract, transmit and become ill with COVID-19, though the risk for serious health outcomes is lower than older populations,” said a statement from public health.
Infants and children with underlying medical conditions are at a high risk, however, said public health officials.
Pfizer recently released study results showing that its vaccine has proven effective in youth ages 5 to 11 years old, but the vaccine is yet to be approved by Health Canada for that age group.
All youth who will be 12 years of age by the end of this year are currently eligible to receive their vaccine in Sask., and officials said they are preparing to expand vaccine delivery to younger groups as soon as possible.
This week, eleven schools in the province have reported COVID-19 outbreaks, including Henry Janzen Elementary School in Regina which has moved to distance learning for students.
Public health said that as of Tuesday, four children under the age of 11 are currently in hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. None are in ICU care.
A total of 111 new cases were reported this week in youth under the age of 19. Of those cases, 75 were in the 0-11 age group, who are not eligible for vaccination.
Overall, the province reported 3,320 new cases since Sept. 15, with Sunday reporting the record highest daily number of new cases with 546. The past week also saw 2,526 recoveries.
Active cases in Sask. now total 4,700, with the seven-day average for new cases now at 474, or 39.4 per 100,000.
There were 19 deaths this week, and 262 people are now in hospital in relation to COVID-19 — 208 receiving in-patient care and 54 in intensive care.
Vaccination in the province is now at 71 per cent fully immunized, and 79 per cent with a first dose.
Sask. anticipates vaccination rates to continue to climb, as the October start-date for the proof of vaccination mandate approaches.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority will be adding more pop-up and walk-in vaccine clinics across the province this week, to help with that demand.