Coronavirus variants spreading across southern Sask.: SHA 

Younger people are ending up in the ICU in serious condition after testing positive for variants of concern, the authority said.

Younger people are ending up in the ICU in serious condition with variants, authority said

More coronavirus variants of concern are being found in the Weyburn and Moose Jaw areas. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority is warning that variants of concern (VoCs) are spreading through the province's southern rural areas. 

Variants are viruses that have mutated, tend to be more contagious and tend to cause more serious illnesses.

The Regina area is the coronavirus variant hot spot, with more than 894 confirmed VoCs. During an update on Thursday, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said it's concerning. 

"This just reinforces that while we have significant measures in Regina right now, all of us all throughout Saskatchewan should continue to observe everything we've been doing, be very cautious, even around household bubbles," Shahab said. 

He said people have been catching the virus even while following the public health orders. Current provincial health orders say people can create a household 'bubble' of up to three households and up to 10 people, except in Regina where they are limited to just household members. 

Shahab said there's been situations where bubbles get together and six or eight of the people get COVID-19 from one person being infected. 

As of March 25, there are 63 VoC in the south central zone, which includes Moose Jaw, and 66 in the southeast, which includes Weyburn. Comparatively, one week ago on March 19 there were less than half as many: 30 in the south central and 24 in the southeast. 

Shahab said the province is monitoring for now rather than implementing further public health orders. 

"I'm in constant touch with medical health doctors and those who are responsible for those jurisdictions, they are having discussions with the city councils and watching closely what are the transmission patterns," Shahab said. 

Health-care system already strained: SHA CEO

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is expanding its test capacity, SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said during the news conference. 

"Despite the hope that's created by the vaccine, it's still critical that we continue to take necessary precautions against the spread not only of COVID-19, but even now more so because of its variants."

Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said younger people are being seen in the ICU in Regina and 15 out of 16 of them have tested positive for a coronavirus variant. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Livingstone said there is already severe strain on the health-care system. He said Regina is in the middle of the battle and it's starting to increase throughout the province. 

"The virus, through the variants of concern, is getting smarter and faster. It's doing its very best to work [through] all of our defences," Livingstone said. "These past few weeks we are being tested in a way that we have not been tested through the pandemic." 

Sixty people are currently in Regina hospitals with COVID-19, with 16 are in the ICU. Of those, 39 have tested positive for variants of concern, with 15 out of the 16 ICU patients testing positive for a VoC. 

Livingstone warned that younger people are also being admitted with more serious conditions. He said out of the 35 ICU admissions in the past month, only one person was older than 70.  

"We expect admissions to continue to rise across the province and in Regina, where we're already seeing it, we're in the middle of this battle here," he said. "We're seeing all members of our health-care system and community tested to its limits."

Livingstone said people who don't require specialized tertiary care are being moved to rural hospitals to make space for Regina COVID-19 patients. 


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