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Local Journalism Initiative

Vaccine to arrive in Prince Albert in early January[1]

Prince Albert is next in line for receiving the Pfizer vaccine. During a press availability on COVID-19 on Tuesday, Health Minister Paul Merriman announced that a shipment of the vaccine would arrive in the city on the week of Monday, Jan. 4. Frontline health workers will be the first to receive the vaccine. Following the arrival of the vaccine in Prince Albert deliveries are expected on a regular weekly basis.  “I want to thank everybody involved for this massive effort. Saskatchewan has a great track record when it comes to immunizations. So when the vaccines arrive we will be ready,” Merriman said The province also expects the Moderna vaccine to receive federal approval in the next few days and those shipments to begin immediately after final approval. “The first Moderna vaccine will be given to residents and staff of long term care and personal care homes.”  “Planning is already well underway for the next allocation so we can really begin to ramp up our vaccinations early in the new year,” he added. Merriman also updated on the delivery of vaccine in the rest of the province. There have been 1,519 vaccinations completed at the Regina General Hospital and they should be done the initial delivery of 1,950 doses in the next few days. “Yesterday we received another 1,950 doses in Regina. These will provide the second shot for those who have received their first shot. That will take place 21 days after the first shot. Soon, in the new year, we will have our first Saskatchewan residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — pretty remarkable when you think about it,” Merriman said. Also occurring yesterday was the delivery of 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Merlis Belsher Place in Saskatoon to deliver the first and second doses to 1,950 Saskatoon health care workers.  “In addition, more doses will arrive in Saskatoon next week enabling a further 487 healthcare workers to be immunized. The second dose of this vaccine will be administered to the recipients within three to four weeks,” Merriman said. The first doses of the vaccine were being delivered in Saskatoon at the time of the news conference during the mid-afternoon. St. Paul’s Hospital ICU Registered Nurse Kathy Pickerl was first in line to receive the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in Saskatoon. Other recipients among the 1,950 health care workers being immunized will include staff from ICUs, Emergency Departments, COVID units, testing and assessment centres.  The province expects the first phase in Saskatoon to take several days with 20 people immunized today.  “Planning is already well underway for the next allocation so we can really begin to ramp up our vaccinations early in the new year,” Merriman said. “As soon as the vaccines arrive they will be administrated to Saskatchewan people quickly, safely and as efficiently as possible,” Merriman said.   Merriman and Shahab emphasize importance of new measures during Christmas   Merriman and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab also believe a downward trend in case numbers the province is reporting can continue into Christmas and beyond. Merriman opened the briefing by thanking everyone in advance for following the guidelines put in place on Dec. 14 ahead of the holidays. “Each year at Christmastime we all look forward to getting together with family and friends, visiting each other’s homes, sharing a meal together, or just standing around the kitchen and socializing. Some of us travel long distances to be with our families. These are all things that make Christmas and the holiday season so great,” Merriman said. “But this year these are the activities that could make Christmas very dangerous that could lead into a huge spike of cases a couple of weeks from now. So we are asking you, stick to your own household for Christmas, connect online with other family members and friends, visit outdoors if you can. Have a quiet Christmas.” Merriman believes that the people in the province will abide by the public health orders. “We have some people that are not adhering to that and we again encourage then to comply with the public health orders that are out there,” he said. He wants people to review the public health orders and the province is making sure compliance is a priority.  “I really trust the Saskatchewan people to be able to comply with what’s going on. They understand that this is for their safety, their neighbors safety and their family’s safety,” Merriman said. “Household contacts are still one of the main sources of transmission. So we know that large gatherings at Christmas would result almost certainly in a large spike in cases. 2021 will be a much better year as we get more and more of our population vaccinated and life begins to return to normal,” Merriman added. Shahab explained that he is hearing that people have made plans to remain connected in other ways to friends and family in Canada and across the province. “If you have friends and family in the community where you live, many people are planning to be outdoors. The weather seems to be not that bad so you can go and meet and greet people from a distance,” he explained.  Shahab also added that going outside and maintaining physical distancing while exercising would be beneficial to mental health over the holidays. Both Shahab and Merriman looked forward to a better 2021 as vaccination ramps up in the province.     36 cases of COVID-19 reported in the North Central Zone Tuesday   There were three deaths related to COVID-19 reported on Tuesday.  All three individuals were in the 80-years-old and over age group with one being in the North West zone and two others in the Regina zone. During the press conference on Tuesday both Merriman and Shahab sent condolences to the families and friends of the 20 people who passed away. “We also have to remember that unfortunately we still see deaths due to COVID-19 so since Friday we have had 20 deaths in Saskatchewan, so I would like to join Minister Merriman in offering my condolences to the individuals and families of those who have passed away, as well as there was a case of death in long term facilities,” Shahab said. The number of deaths in the province has now grown to 125. There were also 181 new cases reported by the province on Tuesday. “Our case numbers, while still higher than we would like, have started to drop. Today our seven day average is 217 cases a day, that is down from 263 a week ago. So what we are doing is working but we have to keep doing it,” Merriman said. The current seven-day average is 217, or 17.9 cases per 100,000 population. Shabab explained that the numbers we are seeing are currently in a downward trend because of the new measures put in place. “Our daily test positive rate is also coming down to 7.9 so again there are some positive trends on all indicators and so it is really important to sustain that downward trend for the next two to three weeks,” Shahab said. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported 36 new cases. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 275 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 126 active cases and North Central 3 has 102 active cases. The North Central zone is third in the Active Case Breakdown with 503 active cases.  Of the 13,942 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 3,945 are considered active. Of the 124 people in hospital in the province, 103 are receiving in patient care including 17 in the North Central. Of the 21 in intensive care, six are in the North Central. Shahab said that the numbers will take some time to start trending down. The recovered number now sits at 9,872 after 223 more recoveries were reported. The total numbers of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 13,942. Of those 3,262 cases are from the north area (1,282 north west, 1,522 north central and 458 north east). Eight previously reported cases have been assigned with one assigned to the Far North West, one to the Far North Central, two to the Far North East, one to the North West, one to Saskatoon and two to the Regina zones. The total vaccinations completed, as of Dec. 21, is 1,519.  These are part of the Regina pilot vaccination phase. Yesterday,2,172 COVID-19 tests were processed. As of today there have been 410,616 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan.  According to the province, daily case information and related news releases, will be posted today through Christmas Eve, Dec. 27 and Dec. 29 through Dec. 31.   Updates will not be available on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Dec. 28 and New Year’s Day, with the corresponding case information from those days being included in the next scheduled update. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald

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