3 children in ICU with COVID-19 as hospitalizations jump in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan has changed its isolation rules to allow asymptomatic close-contacts to leave isolation to get vaccinated.

Close contacts now allowed to leave isolation to get vaccinated

A nurse can be seen, behind IV bags and monitors,  working in an intensive care unit
Saskatchewan recorded 1,629 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, the highest daily number since the pandemic began. That number is likely only a portion of the actual cases as self-administered rapid tests aren't included in the province's daily numbers. (Kyle Green/The Associated Press)

Hospitalizations continue to rise in Saskatchewan, with the province's latest report showing three children with COVID-19 are in intensive care.

According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority's latest report, two of the children are being treated for COVID-19 related illness, while the other is deemed an incidental COVID infection.

That's one more than Sunday, when the province recorded one incidental pediatric case and one COVID-related ICU admission.

An incidental infection means the person was admitted to hospital and being treated for reasons other than COVID-19, but subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Ayisha Kurji, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan, said she isn't surprised that children are getting sick enough with COVID-19 to require ICU admission.

As a pediatrician it's something I'm worried about.- Dr. Ayisha Kurji

Kurji said children under the age of five aren't eligible for the COVID vaccine and are at increased risk of infection.

"It's the ones that are unvaccinated that start to drive spread. It's something to be worried about. As a pediatrician it's something I'm worried about."

The number of children requiring intensive care will continue to increase as the Omicron variant spreads relatively unchecked in the province, Kurji said.

"We know that whenever cases go up overall in the community, the cases in kids are going to go up. Within that, the kids that are going to need the hospital, and unfortunately the ICU, will go up," Kurji said, adding the province needs to restrict gatherings to help slow the spread of Omicron.

An SHA spokesperson refused to provide further details on the pediatric cases, including the children's ages and whether they were on the pediatric or neonatal intensive care units.

No new restrictions

In a news conference Monday, Premier Scott Moe said he has no plans to add gathering restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

"We're not seeing those gatherings are having a significant impact on our numbers relative to other areas of Canada that have those public health measures in place," Moe told reporters.

He said current measures, including masking and proof of vaccination are enough to control the spread of the Omicron variant.

The province reported that 262 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, up from 252 Sunday. The number of people in ICU with COVID also increased to 29 from 26 a day earlier.

On Sunday, the province reported 1,629 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number since the pandemic began.

That number likely only captures a slice of the COVID cases in the province. People who test positive at home on self-administered rapid tests aren't included in the province's daily numbers. 

Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, with the approval of the Ministry of Health, changed the public health order that previously required unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people to isolate for 10 days if they were deemed a close contact of a COVID-19 positive case.

The amended order states that partially-vaccinated or unvaccinated people who are asymptomatic can leave isolation for the "sole purpose of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination." They are only allowed to leave isolation to travel directly to and from their vaccination.

The previous isolation requirement caused some people — particularly children ages five to 11, who just became eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in late November — to miss their vaccination appointments and delay being fully vaccinated.

Currently, a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second immunization for COVID-19.