COVID-19 in Sask.: 308 new cases, 123 in Saskatoon alone

The province announced 308 new cases of COVID-19 today, with 123 of those cases coming from Saskatoon.

Sask. 'staring at numbers from the past' in recent daily updates: former deputy medical health officer

1,691 cases are considered active in the province of Saskatchewan. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The province announced a record 308 new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan Saturday, with 123 in Saskatoon alone.

With the latest cases, Saskatoon is now reporting 500 active cases of COVID-19.

The north central and northeast part of the province reported 30 new cases; the far northwest region reported 26; the northwest reported 23; and Regina reported 20 new cases.

Meanwhile, the far northeast region had 16 new cases, the far north central had eight, the central east and the central west regions each reported seven new cases, the south central and southeast regions of the province each reported three, and the southwest reported two.

The location for 10 of the new cases is pending.

Out of the 4,820 cases of COVID-19 in the province, 1,691 are considered active.

As of Saturday, there were 57 people in hospital with 41 receiving in-patient care and 16 in intensive care.

The province said the high number of cases is partly due to the snowstorm early this week, which resulted in fewer people getting tested as well as delays in getting samples from remote locations to provincial labs.

It said there is currently an upward trend of positive case numbers but expects to see the cases averaging out.

The province said the Saskatchewan Health Authority labs process large batches of tests that may be reported throughout the day, immediately before or right after the public reporting cut off time. It said this makes the day to day case numbers appear variable.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said Saturday's case numbers are a reminder that the spread of virus is higher now than it has ever been before.

"We all need to redouble our efforts to protect ourselves and others," Shahab said in a statement. "Wear a mask, limit your number of personal contacts, limit your number of visitors from outside your household, don't leave home if you are feeling sick, and make sure you're always physically distancing and washing your hands often."

"We all need to do our part to limit the spread."

There were 3,665 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan Friday, which is the highest daily test count recorded to date.

How restrictions impact current case numbers

Dr. Anne Huang, a former Saskatchewan deputy medical health officer, said Saturday's case count is very concerning. 

"[Cases] are growing on an exponential curve," Huang said. 

"I think it's important that the policymakers and the public recognize that we are staring at numbers of the past when we see the daily report."

Mandatory mask rules for Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina went into effect Nov. 6. Huang said that in general, new restrictions are often seen reflected in the COVID-19 case count two to three weeks later.

"But what we are seeing right now could be cases that got infected about a week ago before the new restriction was put in, or it could be cases that got infected two or three weeks ago," Huang said. 

"So we may be actually seeing cases that became infected even before the new mandatory policies went into place" in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert, she said.

She also said in the weeks to come, the case trajectory is going to stay on the same upwards path.

"Whatever the new restrictions we put in last week and just yesterday will reduce some of those onboard transmission from happening in the third generation, but a lot of infection has already happened. We are [just] not seeing the numbers yet."

But she said given the widespread community transmission that's already happened, the province may not see any impact from the mandatory masking policy in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

Huang says the province should have implemented a province-wide mandatory mask rule earlier and not just for municipalities with more than 5,000 people. 

School closures and alternating days

On Friday, the province recommended that high schools with more than 600 students move to Level 3 of the provincial Safe Schools Plan, which would reduce the amount of in-class learning.

The Prairie Valley School Division said Greenall High School will move to Level 3 of the plan.

Students will be split up into two cohorts, attend class in-person on alternating days and work from home on the days they are not in school. The change is effective until the end of the semester, Jan. 28, 2021.

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools also announced two schools reported positive cases of COVID-19.

St. Frances Cree Bilingual School reported two cases. Online learning started for students there on Nov. 10. A news release from Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools it will continue distance learning until Nov. 18.

École St. Gerard reported one individual with COVID-19, and classes will continue there as normal.

With files from Laura Sciarpelletti