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Saskatchewan's Provincial Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab speaks during an update on COVID-19 at the Legislative Building in Regina, Wednesday, March 11, 2020.Michael Bell/The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan’s top doctor says the best way to keep COVID-19 out of schools is to keep community transmission of the virus low.

Dr. Saqib Shahab says he’s reviewed different studies that found schools mirror what’s happening in surrounding areas.

For more than a week, public health officials in Saskatchewan have been reporting only a handful of new cases after recent outbreaks on Hutterite colonies that contributed to a period of double-digit infection increases this summer.

Of the 1,611 total cases to date, the Ministry of Health says 482 have no known exposure and 71 infections are being investigated.

Officials on Friday reported two more infections and say the province is down to 44 active cases, about half of which are on colonies.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the province now boasts one of the lowest rates of active infections outside the Maritimes.

“The fact that we have low community transmission is the most important thing we can do to minimize the chance of a case or a cluster emerging in school,” Shahab said at a news conference Friday.

“That’s No. 1.”

With classes resuming Sept. 8 and more people moving inside as the summer heat cools, Shahab encouraged residents to keep their group of close contacts small.

He also said it’s natural for families to worry about sending their children to school in a pandemic.

Canada’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said parents should expect to see cases of the virus in schools.

Shahab said what he’s reviewed shows that, generally, the transmission of COVID-19 isn’t as effective in young children as it is in adults.

“The evidence we have seen and with all the (safety) layers that have been applied is that they’ll be less common than what we’ve seen in our workplaces,” he said.