'Take it to the next level': Saskatoon health official says 'keep it small' for Thanksgiving, minimize contacts

A Saskatoon-based health official is hoping people limit their contacts and "keep it small" this Thanksgiving — even without restrictions on gathering sizes in place.

The Saskatoon area has led the province in active COVID-19 cases since Aug. 6 and as of Monday's update to provincial totals has had over 1,000 reported active cases for 19 days straight.

On Friday, Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark sent a letter to Premier Scott Moe on behalf of city council asking for limits on gathering sizes to help turn back the surge.

In an interview with CTV Morning Live, Saskatoon Health Authority medical health officer Dr. Jasmine Hasselback said she hopes people take things to the "next level" beyond the masking order that's already in place.

"Minimize the people that you're around," she said.

"Keep things small going into Thanksgiving. I'm tired of doing this, I'm being very frank; it feels holiday after holiday where we look forward to coming together as families (we can't)," Hasselback said.

"Even with the vaccine, even if you're all vaccinated. That's good, that's great, be transparent about that if you are coming together but try and keep it small," she said.

"The virus is really taking advantage of us all coming together. So let's reduce those chances if we can."

As of Monday's update to Saskatchewan's COVID-19 totals, 36 people were in intensive care in the Saskatoon area due to COVID-19 with 80 others receiving inpatient care.

Hasselback said she struggles to find the words to describe the city's intensive care units.

"It's not something that you can conceive or experience until you're in that space," she said.

She said it's "quite anomalous" to see someone who is fully vaccinated end up in the ICU due to COVID-19 which she describes as a "no vaccine" space.

Hasselback if someone is vaccine-hesitant, now is the time to have an "honest and frank conversation" about their concerns and to develop a plan in collaboration with their health care provider and family and friends.

"We don't want them — for their sake — to end up in the hospital or ICU."