Sask.'s top doctor says COVID hospital numbers could go up to 500 or more

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer says COVID hospital numbers could go up to as high as 300 to 500 or more in the next few weeks due to the high Omicron infection rate.

COVID-19 numbers in Saskatchewan ICUs could increase to 100 or more, says Dr. Saqib Shahab

Saskatchewan Chief Medical Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab expects hospital numbers to go up within the next few weeks, he said Friday. (The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says COVID-19 hospital numbers could go up to as high as 300 to 500 or more in the next few weeks due to the high Omicron infection rate.

On Friday the province reported 23 people with the disease under intensive care – 15 of them for COVID-19-related illnesses – but Dr. Saqib Shahab said ICU pressures could increase to 75, 100 or more patients.

"Many provinces have seen hospitalizations during the Omicron wave that are much higher than what they saw in previous waves," he said on Friday.

"At this point, there is no reason why we will not see that either over the next two or three weeks."

According to Shahab, this prediction is based on higher overall infection rates during the Omicron wave and consequently higher case numbers than before. 

Projections are adjusted on a day by day, week by week basis, he said.

"The higher the case numbers go, the higher the projection on hospitalizations," said the province's chief medical health officer.

"Test positivity is another key metric."

SHA modelling projections

Recent modelling from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) projects Saskatchewan almost doubling its record for people in hospital with COVID-19 by mid-February, even in the most optimistic scenario.

That could mean more than 1,500 people in hospital with COVID-19 in mid-February, excluding ICU patients, according to the modelling's most severe scenario.

The best-case scenario projects 600 people in hospital halfway through next month, not including those under intensive care.

(Dennis Kendel/Twitter)

Modelling projects "what may occur," said Shahab on Friday.

"It's like a weather report that you should prepare for the worst, but that doesn't mean that we're locked into the worst-case scenario."

In a statement to media on Thursday afternoon, Premier Scott Moe said the modelling is "one piece of information the government considers."

"We are placing greater emphasis on closely tracking actual real-time data from across Canada to inform our COVID-19 response."

As seen in other provinces, when test positivity goes down, hospitalization numbers might lag one to three weeks behind, he said.

The province's chief medical health officer anticipates that overall COVID-19 hospital numbers might climb higher in Saskatchewan than ever before, maybe somewhat less in ICUs though, he said.

"I just want to emphasize that actions we take today can make a difference one, two, three weeks into the future," said Shahab.

"By getting boosted, you'll decrease the risk to yourself. You decrease the risk to others who may get exposed to you."