Public health orders – including mandatory masking – could lift as early as July 11 in Sask.

The Saskatchewan government has updated its reopening plan to include a COVID-19 vaccination threshold that would trigger the removal of all remaining public health orders, including the mask mandate and gathering limits.

The government says it will lift public health orders three weeks after 70 per cent of people age 12 and older have received their first dose – and at least three weeks after the beginning of Step Two.

If that threshold is reached by June 20, the province says all restrictions could be lifted by July 11.

“We’ve had the public health orders in place in this province for 445 days. They could all be removed in just a little over a month if enough of us choose to go out and get vaccinated,” said Premier Scott Moe. 

This update is in addition to the original Step Three threshold, which will be triggered when 70 per cent of people 18 and older get their first shot.

Step Three would see most public health measures lifted, but gathering limits and mandatory masking will stay in place until the next target – 70 per cent of those age 12 and older – is met.

As of Tuesday, 66 per cent of those age 18 and older have received the first shot, and 62 per cent of people age 12 and older have their first dose.

The government says that while masks will no longer be required under the public health order, people may still wear masks based on their own comfort level and requirements may be in effect in workplaces at the discretion of owners.

The premier drew parallels to the U.S., where large crowds at sporting events – like the Indy 500 – have been allowed as 60 per cent of Americans have received their first dose, according to Moe, where as Saskatchewan currently sits at 62 per cent.

“The U.S. has moved forward with their reopening plan much faster than we have in Saskatchewan – and with lower vaccination rates – and their case numbers continue to fall,” said Moe. “Here, we are taking a more cautious approach with a higher level of vaccinations required.”

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, said Saskatchewan’s in a good spot.

“I think we are increasingly confident that as long as we keep our case numbers low, comply with our public health measures for the next six weeks…and of course go as high as we can in our first dose and that second dose, I think the outlook looks really good,” said Dr. Shahab.

When asked if the government had given any consideration to waiting to drop all restrictions until more people have their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the premier said he believes the second dose strategy enabled the province to lift the public health measures.

“If you look out to July 11, we’ll be well, well into making those doses available to Saskatchewan people by that point in time,” said Moe.

According to the province’s second-dose strategy, people age 45 and older – or those who got their first dose on or before April 15 – will be eligible for their second on June 21.

Everyone who gets their first dose on or before June 28 will be eligible for their second shot by July 26.