COVID-19 in Sask: Premier says testing capacity is there, despite fewer daily tests than announced goal

Twenty-five additional cases of COVID-19 were announced in Saskatchewan on Wednesday. The government also announced an outbreak at Meadow Lake Hospital the day before.

25 new cases announced Wednesday

An outbreak has been declared at the Meadow Lake Hospital after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. (Shutterstock)

Premier Scott Moe defended the province's rate of testing for COVID-19 on Wednesday, saying it is being conducted when it needs to be, despite falling short of a previously announced daily goal.

The province has conducted 33,591 tests so far, after another 670 tests were added to the tally Wednesday. Saskatchewan has not had a backlog of testing to be done since testing began.

"I would say this: the testing capacity is there, contact tracing capacity is there, the isolation capacity is there where we need it," Moe said.

The premier had announced in mid-April, after the Roy Romanow Provincial Lab had processed 1,051 tests in a day, that he would be asking the lab to process 1,500 tests per day by May. There has not been more that 1,000 performed in any day since.

"Things have changed," Moe said of the response to COVID-19 since that goal was set. He noted the cases then were linked to travel, in most cases. Now, the province is dealing with rising numbers of community transmission.

Moe credited the province's top doctors with managing test numbers throughout the province. He said testing numbers are low in areas where it may not be needed as much, such as in the southern region of the province.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) announced 25 additional cases of COVID-19 in the province on Wednesday, with all but one appearing in the far north region.

There is one new case in the Saskatoon area and 24 in the far north. Of those 24 cases, 22 of them are in the La Loche area. There are now 138 active cases in the far north region.

The rate of transmission (Rt) in the province — which indicates how many others each infected person is expected to give the virus to — is hovering around 1.0, said chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.

"The pulling up of the rate is primarily due to the outbreak in La Loche," Shahab said.

"That absolutely does not minimize the outbreak in La Loche. That is the outbreak that we very much need to ramp up — and have ramped up our efforts to contain that."

There have been 1,464 tests conducted in the far north region of the province, as of May 6. According to Dr. Susan Shaw, chief medical officer for the SHA, there have been 727 tests in the La Loche area, about half of the overall testing in the region. 

There are 194 active cases as of Wednesday. There have now been 512 overall cases reported, with 312 recoveries and six deaths, since the novel coronavirus was first detected in the province.

COVID-19 cases announced in Saskatchewan so far breakdown regionally as follows:

A regional breakdown of COVID-19 cases reported in Saskatchewan as of May 6. (CBC Graphics)

There are 13 people in hospital due to the virus, with four people requiring intensive care. One of the ICU patients is in the north region while the rest are in Saskatoon.

The number of cases with no known exposure is now at 45 overall. There are 138 linked to travel, 204 linked to community contacts or mass gathering and 124 other cases are being investigated. 

Outbreak declared at Meadow Lake hospital

Wednesday afternoon also saw the SHA announce that an outbreak had been declared at the hospital in Meadow Lake, the third hospital to have an outbreak declared in the northern region.

A staff member at Meadow Lake Hospital was confirmed to have the virus. The SHA says the case is linked to community transmission. No patients have displayed symptoms to date, the SHA said.

The staff member and close contacts are now under self-isolation and the government is working on tracing contacts. 

The outbreak was declared May 5 by Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, medical health officer. The SHA says there are no disruptions to services at the Meadow Lake Hospital.

Outbreaks have also been declared at Lloydminster Hospital and Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert. 

With files from Alicia Bridges


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