Saskatoon mayor wants more restrictions put in place to combat rising COVID-19 numbers
U of S professor says Saskatoon is headed to where Regina was a few weeks ago
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark wants the province to implement more restrictions to ward off ever-rising cases of COVID-19 in the city.
"I don't want to wait until the ICUs are full," said Clark, adding he has relayed that message to the provincial government.
There are almost 500 active cases in Saskatoon and the city has recorded its first case of the highly-transmissible P1 variant of concern associated with Brazil.
"I don't want to wait until it's too late in order for us to try and curb and minimize the further spread of the variance," Clark said.
He said the restrictions imposed on Regina appear to be working, as the number of cases there is stabilizing.
"I think it's inevitable that we're going to get to that point where restrictions are needed [in Saskatoon]," said Clark, citing how the province's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab's said Saskatoon is "on red alert."
"If [restrictions] get implemented earlier, then my hope would be that they could be implemented for a shorter time and be less disruptive to our economy."
Cory Neudorf, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan's department of community health and epidemiology and a public health physician, said that without stricter lockdowns Saskatoon is headed toward a spike in COVID-19 cases much like Regina.
"[Greater restrictions are] obviously the most effective way to get numbers to come down quickly," Neudorf said.
"We don't have to wait until things get out of control and the hospitals are overflowing with patients."
Neudorf cited Nova Scotia quickly locking down after a spike in cases as a good example of what to do.
"Otherwise we're very dependent on an aggressive testing and isolation regime to try to prevent secondary spread of suspected cases. That's a lot easier if restrictions are put in place, because then you just reduce the number of places where people can interact."
On Tuesday, the Saskatoon area reported more new cases of COVID-19 than Regina, which has led all areas of the province in new infections since variants of concern began dominating during the third wave.
Saskatoon also led in newly confirmed cases of variants of concern and recorded its first case of the highly-transmissible P1 variant of concern associated with Brazil, which has yet to be confirmed in Regina.
Saskatchewan researchers revealed a spike in viral load in Saskatoon's wastewater — a finding they said potentially augurs a significant impending increase in COVID-19 cases in this area.
Neudorf said increased restrictions in Regina, like closing indoor dining, has only been sufficient in stabilizing the number of cases, not decreasing them.
"So you're going to likely see in the next few days [Saskatoon] cases going up and up and down a bit. But the trend is going to be toward higher numbers," Neudorf said.
He said whether we see exponential growth or not depends on how people behave.
Ward 2 Coun. Hilary Gough said the people she has spoken with are frustrated with not having any clear guidance from the province.
Gough said the community is ready for a more proactive approach.
"To me, that would mean stronger restrictions in our community. Following something more closely to what we've seen in Regina and trying to avoid getting to the point of Regina's case numbers and health care system are in."
Clark said now is the time to put in restrictions, at least until people in their 30s, 40s and 50s are vaccinated.
"I just want to keep as many people alive as possible until we get to that point," he said.
Neudorf said Premier Scott Moe is right that vaccines are ultimately going to be the way out of this pandemic, "but they're not our only way out of this. And in fact, it's going to take longer to get out of it if we don't do a combined approach of increased restrictions and increased immunization at the same time."
On Wednesday, the province reported 213 new cases and four more deaths.
Saskatoon had 47 new cases and three deaths, while Regina reported 81 cases and one death.
There are almost 500 known active cases in Saskatoon.
With files from Guy Quenneville