COVID-19 in Sask: 8 new infected, 7 more recoveries, but more details sought

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili says "the best way to get people confused and panicking is to give them incomplete information."

'The best way to get people confused and panicking is to give them incomplete information': Ryan Meili

The province has reported 24 COVID-19 cases linked to a snowmobile club rally dinner in Christopher Lake. (Lakeland Tree Dodgers Snowmobile Club/Facebook)

Click here for the latest: COVID-19 in Sask: Photos of beds in Regina hospital cafeteria offer peek into province's pandemic planning

  • Saskatchewan now has 184 reported COVID-19 cases, up by eight from Monday.
  • Twenty-one people have recovered from the virus in the province, up from 14.
  • Nine cases are considered instances of community transmission, although the Opposition is taking issue with how those numbers are being reported.
  • The family of one of two fatal Saskatchewan COVID-19 victims wants the province to be more transparent about the location of cases.
  • Here's how the government is looking to help society's most vulnerable during the pandemic.

Saskatchewan reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 184.

Seven more people have recovered from the virus, making for a total of 21 recoveries in all.

Here's the latest regional breakdown of Saskatchewan's coronavirus cases. 

Saskatoon continues to lead all regions by far. (Duk Han Lee/CBC)

Officials have now confirmed that the numbers reported daily (and reflected in our maps) represent the final tallies from the previous day.

More detail sought on cases

Tuesday's update lacked a certain detail, according to Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili.

The province cited nine cases of community transmission — cases where no link to recent travel could be found — and said "the rest are travel or mass gathering/event related."

No breakdown between "travel" and "mass gathering/event related" was provided, however.

CBC News has reached out to health officials to find out why, and whether travel and event-related cases should be considered community transmission.

Meili said they should.

"Mass gathering events are community transmission," he said. "And there is no reason for them not to provide that breakdown.

"The best way to get people confused and panicking is to give them incomplete information. It's really important the government step up their game." 

Saskatoon leads regions in cases, testing

As of Tuesday, Saskatoon had 90 positive cases of COVID-19, accounting for nearly half of the province's cases. Regina was a distant second with 39. The North, which includes communities like Prince Albert and Christopher Lake — home to a now-infamous March 14 snowmobile club supper rally — had 37.

Saskatoon has also led regions in terms of the number of coronavirus tests conduced, with 4,297 tests performed as of Monday. Regina had far fewer at 2,674. 

Saskatchewan has average 624 tests per day over the past seven days, peaking at 838 on March 28. The testing numbers have dropped over the past two days, with 475 on March 30 — the lowest total in two weeks.

Over the last few days, Regina has had more pending tests than other regions.

Asked why the pending test numbers fluctuate, the spokesperson gave several reasons: 

  • Specimens are run in batches, and it may be too late in the evening to run the batch or there were not enough specimens to fill a batch.

  • A "result issue" may have occurred so the specimen had to be recollected and retested

  • The specimen may have been sent to National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for further testing.

Rally supper cases increase to 24

The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the 130-person snowmobile club supper in Christopher Lake, north of Prince Albert, has grown, according to health officials.

By Monday, the number of positive cases who had attended the March 14 supper increased to 24, up from 20 on Saturday, with health workers still planning to contact dozens more attendees.

It's one of three events — the other two being a Vancouver dental conference and an Edmonton curling bonspiel — that account for a large share of cases in Saskatchewan. 

Confirmation of the increase in rally supper cases came the same day the province announced it's beefing up resources devoted to contact tracing — the process of establishing who an infected person recently came into contact with. It also came the same day the RCMP confirmed its first COVID-19 case in Saskatchewan, an officer serving in Prince Albert.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, also noted a new phase in Saskatchewan's fight against the coronavirus Monday.

"We now are increasingly seeing cases that have no link to travel," Shahab said, referring to what's known as community or local transmission.

The province announced its first two COVID-19 related deaths on Monday. One of them was an instance of community transmission, Shahab said. 

Province still working on planning models

Last week, the province addressed an internal early draft, "worse-case-scenario" document from the Saskatchewan Health Authority that outlined a three-phased approach to planning for the virus.

Phase 2 of the plan called for use of dedicated spaces in Regina and Saskatoon hospitals for COVID-19 patients as well as community-based field hospitals in areas such as arenas. 

Phase 2 also outlined a pending "ethical framework for decision making."

Phase two of the province's early-draft response plan for COVID-19 also called for an "ethical framework for decisionmaking." (Saskatchewan Health Authority)

A spokesperson for the health authority said the framework is expected to be completed this week and will be based on principles to ensure that decision about health care "are not unpredictable or arbitrary, and that values are applied consistently to patients needing care."

The guides were designed to help prepare for various scenarios, including a possible influx of patients that could overburden the system, the spokesperson said via email.

"The goal is to ensure ethical principles are fairly applied to patients while also alleviating some of the burden on physicians and other members of the team associated with making decisions. In times of scarcity, decision-making principles shift from individual benefit to societal benefit," they said.

"This will be an extraordinary time for the health system and scarce resources will need to be managed fairly, transparently and equitably."

Meili said it's good to have such considerations in mind ahead of time so that "you don't have doctors and families having to make those decisions ad hoc in a very stressful situation."

Ideally it won't come to that, he added.

"Hopefully we're never seeing a situation where doctors are having to choose between which patients get to be on a ventilator in which would not. That's what we want to avoid. That's why we're pushing for more measures to decrease spread. That's why we're pushing for the health authority to get the necessary equipment."

Health Minister Jim Reiter said last week there are more ventilators on order.

Planning through Saskatchewan-specific lens

The early draft planning document also stated that, "even under conservative assumptions COVID-19 will almost certainly overwhelm the health system" and that anywhere from 9,000 to 15,000 Saskatchewan residents may ultimately die from the virus. That was based on an infection rate of 30 per cent and a mortality rate of 3.5 per cent.

As of Monday, two people out of the 176 total COVID-19 cases in the province had died. 

"We continue to refine and update the conceptual modelling," the health authority spokesperson said. 

"We do not yet have modelling data available that is specific to the Saskatchewan context, though we continue to look at data based on the experience in other countries and plan for the worst while we work vigorously to produce the best result we can."

The spokesperson stressed that the modelling needs to be seen in the context of planning, "to ensure we are ready for all scenarios."

"It is not a prediction of the future," the spokesperson said. 

List of testing sites expands

There are now COVID-19 screening and testing sites in 36 communities in the province, according to a new list posted to the government's coronavirus website earlier this week.

"No patient assessment or care is performed at these locations," the province cautioned.

"We were focused in the early days and weeks with respect to testing those that had a travel history with us," Shahab said Monday. "Now [we're] transitioning to the second phase of now having community transmission in the province."

Contact tracing is also key at this stage, Shahab added. 

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

All-platform journalist for CBC Saskatoon

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