Daily bump in Sask. COVID-19 cases could triple even if people closely follow rules, province warns
Saskatchewan Health Authority releases latest modelling forecast
Even if Saskatchewan residents closely follow public health guidelines over the next 11 days, the number of new COVID-19 cases announced daily could triple, according to the provincial government's latest modelling forecast.
On Jan. 10, Saskatchewan recorded 307 new cases.
By Jan. 25, that number could rise sharply to around 900 — or even as high as approximately 1,600 if there is a "low uptake of public health measures," according the latest modelling information released on Thursday.
The predictions were based on trends from Dec. 25 to Jan. 12
The number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 could increase, too, the province warned.
There were 206 people in hospital for COVID-19 on Thursday. That figure is projected to go above 300 if people follow public health guidelines closely, or around 850 if people don't.
Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said 71 of the 75 intensive care beds available throughout the province for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients are currently full.
That capacity can be quickly doubled by repurposing other spaces, Livingstone said, but he added, "We're at the most fragile point we've ever been in this pandemic."
Previous modelling didn't include health orders
This was the first public modelling update from the government since mid-November.
At that time, the update provided by Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab featured modelling of six-month projections and 14-day forecasts.
Four scenarios were offered in the six-month projections. Each assumed that schools and businesses remain open and that "mixing" occurs at homes, work, schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
What the modelling did not factor in was how more restrictions, like a short-term lockdown, would affect the pandemic trajectory. It also did not account for the administration of vaccines.
At the time, the province had 5,651 total cases and 32 deaths. It had just introduced mandatory mask use province-wide and reduced private gathering limits.
As of Wednesday, there had been 19,017 known COVID-19 cases and 206 deaths.
Cases continue to rise
For the second straight day, Saskatchewan leads the country in active cases per 100,000, according to data from Health Canada.
As of Wednesday evening, the province had 319 active cases per 100,000, ahead of Alberta (294) and Quebec (279).
This week, the province announced an extension of public health orders until at least Jan. 29.
Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said Wednesday the government is hopeful a post-Christmas spike in cases is temporary and the restrictions will have their desired effect.
"I think people understand the importance of the measures," he said.
"We've been able to find that balance between restrictions and allowing people to live out their lives and be able to go to work and do what they would do back in December."
More areas slated to get vaccine
Health Canada has started publishing a schedule of how many vaccines will be delivered to each province.
According to Health Canada, Saskatchewan will receive 6,825 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, along with 5,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
The province said some doses of the Moderna vaccine will continue to be shipped to the far north, but the majority will be distributed to over 50 communities in the southeast and east central regions of the province.
This includes Canora, Kamsack, Kelvington, Wadena and surrounding areas in the east central areas, as well as Weyburn and surrounding communities in the southeast.
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With files from Mickey Djuric and Guy Quenneville