Province hasn't formally responded to Saskatoon's request for COVID-19 measures: deputy mayor

Cynthia Block, Saskatoon’s deputy mayor, held out hope the provincial government would grant Saskatoon city council’s request for temporary public health orders limiting gathering sizes to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the city.

However, in an emailed statement to CTV News, the province said it would not grant Saskatoon temporary public health orders, adding “the vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations are unvaccinated residents and those who are not vaccinated should get vaccinated.”

Block said council’s request came from recommendations from the city’s Emergency Management Organization and the local medical health officer.

“They urged us to do whatever we could to bring down the numbers so our health system can remain intact for those who need it,” Block said.

“As we look at the numbers we’re facing, we continue to be in what we frame as the orange zone which is very critical in a number of areas, especially the overall number of cases in Saskatoon and those numbers in hospital continue to climb.”

Block said the city has not yet received a formal response from the province.

Last month city council adopted a COVID-19 framework where, depending on the severity of new cases, hospitalization and positivity rates, the city would move through colour-coded scenarios with recommendations on how to lower the severity level of COVID in the city.

“We’re facing an urgent crisis in our city and we need to do whatever we can to make sure that hospital services are available to people who need them,” Block said.

Ward 9 Coun. Bev Dubois said she’s disappointed the province wouldn’t act on the city’s request.

“I am disappointed, I want folks to be safe and healthy and I want our health system to get help as well, there’s so many people that are unable to get surgeries right now because of COVID-19 in our hospitals. It’s not a good situation.”

Ward 5 Coun. Randy Donauer said while he supported the letter to the province, he respects the province’s decision.

Interim senior medical health officer Dr. Cory Neudorf said Saskatoon’s spike in COVID-19 infections is similar to what the City of Regina experienced in the third wave of the pandemic in March 2021, when the Queen City led the nation with 891 variant cases.

Neudorf said not granting temporary measures to limit gathering sizes in Saskatoon is “perplexing.”

“We do know what does work so I’m at a loss as to why they wouldn't have approved,” Dr. Neudorf said.

He was also critical about the government’s message when it said unvaccinated residents need to get vaccinated.

Neudorf said while large immunization number is needed to beat the pandemic, it’s a long-term solution whereas the city of Saskatoon was looking for more short-term relief.

“Yes ultimately the way out of this is for high immunization rates but even if everyone who is unimmunized in Saskatoon came forward to get immunized, the effects of that immunization isn’t going to be seen for a month, so that isn’t going to do anything to stop the spread of emerging cases in the city.”

The Ministry of Health did not respond to a request for comment.

As of Wednesday, the ministry is reporting 1,093 active cases of COVID-19 in Saskatoon and 4,313 cases provincewide.

In addition, a record number of patients with COVID-19 are receiving care in hospital at 356, with 76 in ICU.