Sask.'s COVID-19 death rate concerning, premier says
Province reported 42 COVID-related deaths last week
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the province's COVID death rate is concerning, with 42 deaths from the illness reported in the second week of February — one of the deadliest weeks over the course of the pandemic.
Those deaths were reported during the week of Feb. 6 to Feb. 12, according to the province's latest weekly COVID-19 update. The number of deaths related to COVID-19 since Feb. 12 has not yet been reported, as the province has stopped providing daily updates publicly.
There have been 64 COVID-related deaths since Jan. 30.
"The fatality rate that was released here for this past week I'd say most certainly is concerning. It's increasing week over week," Moe said at a news conference Friday.
He says he spoke with Health Minister Paul Merriman Friday morning about continuing conversations on the death rate with Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
The few remaining pandemic-related public health measures in Saskatchewan, including mandatory indoor masking, will be dropped at the end of the month.
As that happens, "I think it's incumbent on all of us … that we're still respectful of one another — most certainly respectful of the individual choices that each of us are making, whether or not we're wearing a mask, whether or not we're vaccinated," Moe said.
The province reported earlier this week that as of Wednesday, there were a record 410 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Saskatchewan.
But Moe says the number of people in hospitals continues to decline relative to health-care capacity. This week, about 86 per cent of all provincial hospital beds are occupied — down from 91 per cent a couple of weeks ago.
"So the overall load in our hospitals is declining. That's not to say that there isn't some significant challenges in certain facilities, in particular in our larger tertiary facilities, in the large cities," Moe said.
According to the Ministry of Health, the Saskatchewan Health Authority is continuing to address acute care capacity in rural and northern areas by slowing down some services, and is redeploying staff to support urban hospital pressures.
Moe says Shahab will be watching hospitalizations "very closely" as restrictions are removed.
"But what we have seen in general terms in most other places that have made moves to reducing and removing restrictions is a general decline in all of the metrics with respect to COVID-19," Moe said.
CBC News asked the ministry for an interview with Shahab but was told he's unavailable.
"Dr. Shahab would like to extend his condolences to the families of the individuals who passed away during the week," the ministry wrote in a statement.
It also said as restrictions lift, individuals will need to "assess their own risk and comfort levels."
"As we shift to living with COVID-19, there is also a continuing need for personal responsibility for self-monitoring, self-testing and self-management," the statement said.
The ministry encouraged everyone eligible to get vaccinations, saying that is the best way to lower the risk of serious illness and deaths "while minimizing societal disruption."