COVID-19 in Sask: As cases rise, epidemiologist says province should give specific locations

A professor at the University of Saskatchewan college of medicine says he is concerned that if people aren't told where the coronavirus is present, they may become complacent and allow it to spread.

13 new cases and 12 hospitalizations announced Friday

The Ministry of Health says there are 13 new known cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan. Two more people have recovered from the virus, but three cases were reactivated. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, bringing the total in the province to 936 cases. 

This comes after a one-day record-high number of 42 new cases Thursday, 31 of those in the south.

There are eight new known cases in the central region Friday, along with two in the Regina area, one in the south, one in the north and one in the far north.

A total of 128 cases are now active, including 100 in the south and central regions.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has named 14 rural municipalities and areas with an increased transmission risk, but it's not giving a comprehensive list of communities where the coronavirus is present, or saying how many cases are present in each municipality or region.

Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan's college of medicine, said he is concerned that if people aren't told where the coronavirus is present, they may relax and allow it to spread.

"It is really important to know, not just in the general sense, where the cases are. South, southwest, west-central — that's not a place. It is a huge region," said Muhajarine. 

"This is not a pandemic that actually can be fought with secrecy and lack of transparency. There is a way to communicate information without actually compromising people's personal privacy."

University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine says if more information is given about case locations, specific precautions can be recommended. (Kristen McEwen/University of Saskatchewan)

The province's information and privacy commissioner told CBC in June that communities with more than five cases can be named without giving away a specific patient's identity. 

He said as much transparency as possible is needed for the province to maintain the trust of the community.

Muhajarine said that if more information is given about cases and ongoing contact tracing, specific precautions and preventive measures can be recommended, rather than general tips like handwashing and distancing.

For instance, people could be told to avoid certain places unless necessary, and those in communities with extremely high risk of transmission could be told to stay home. 

This week, the provincial government named a number of businesses that someone who later tested positive for COVID-19 had visited, including Costco in Regina. 

Muhajarine also applauded the province's decision to open testing up to everyone, even if symptoms aren't present. 

If you have been somewhere where you may have come into contact with someone with COVID-19, he said you should monitor yourself for symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you should self-isolate and request a test. 

Symptoms can range from headache, body aches and fever, to digestive issues and loss of sense of smell, Muhajarine said.

"People know when they're healthy, at ease, and when they're not at ease, and something seems to be not just right. I think at that point it is better to call 811 to make an appointment to get tested."

Hospitalization number hits new high

The province said Friday two more people have recovered from COVID-19, but three cases were removed from recovered status and reactivated.

According to the ministry, that can happen if public health determines a patient has relapsed or developed more symptoms.

There are now 793 people considered recovered from the illness in the province.

Twelve people are now in hospital, including seven in Saskatoon, three in the south, one in the north and one in the central region. One of the patients in the south is in intensive care.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital is a new high for Saskatchewan.

Twelve people are now in hospital, with seven in Saskatoon, three in the south, one in the north and one in the central region. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

With more cases, Muhajarine said it's likely the province will see an increase in hospitalization rates.

Hospitalization doesn't really signal spread of the coronavirus, he said, but instead shows who is getting sick from it.

He said the United States and other countries have seen a difference in new patients, compared to the people who were getting sick earlier in the pandemic.

"The people who are getting the virus now seem to be relatively younger than the people who were getting [it] back in April and May," he said.

"They may be relatively healthy … so therefore they may need less hospital care."

Muhajarine said younger people are probably being infected at higher rates in some countries because they are more mobile, while older people are staying at home and seem to be more likely to take precautions like wearing masks when they do go out. 

If more people do need to be hospitalized, Muhajarine said he believes the medical system in Saskatchewan is prepared. 

COVID-19 patients on domestic flights

The province also said Friday two domestic flights have been added to the list of flights arriving in Saskatchewan with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

They are WS605 from Toronto to Regina on July 6 (affected seats in rows 4-10) and AC 8629 from Toronto to Saskatoon on July 9 (affected seats in rows 12-17).

All passengers who have taken a domestic flight with a confirmed case of COVID-19 are asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days afterward.

All international travellers must self-isolate when they return to Canada.


Alex Soloducha is a reporter, social media producer and digital producer for CBC Saskatchewan. She was part of a team that won a Canadian RTDNA award for a digital COVID-19 Kids Q&A. She can be reached at and follow on TikTok @cbcsasknews.