Saskatoon

Sask.'s daily bump in new COVID-19 cases stuck in 'long plateau,' experts say

The number of new COVID-19 cases announced daily in the province remains worryingly high given the additional restrictions imposed late in 2020, some epidemiologists say.

No consistent reduction in cases despite additional restrictions imposed in late 2020

The number of new COVID-19 cases announced daily in the province remains worryingly high given the additional restrictions imposed late in December, some Saskatchewan epidemiologists say. (Shawn Hempel/Shutterstock)

Epidemiologists in Saskatchewan say we won't know the full effect of Christmas and New Year's Eve gatherings on the province's COVID-19 caseload until at least the third week of January. 

In the meantime, the number of new cases announced daily remains worryingly high, given the additional restrictions imposed late in 2020, those experts say.

"What we're seeing at this point is this long plateau," said Cory Neudorf, a professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan.

"The restrictions we have in place right now have stopped us from getting into that exponential growth that you see with no restrictions. But they weren't enough alone to bring not just a flattening of the curve, but that reduction in cases we were looking for."

The number of daily new cases has fluctuated greatly at times in recent days. On Monday, 286 new cases were announced, followed Tuesday by 153 new cases.

Those fluctuations remain at a high case level, though, said Nazeem Muhajarine, a fellow professor of community health and epidemiology at the university.

What's more, "we are not seeing our average daily new cases going down and staying down week after week," Muhajarine said.

"We are losing the battle."

Muhajarine said he'd like to see the daily bump average out consistently to below 150 new cases a day, or even below 100 or 50 cases a day, "like they did four or five months ago."

"[There's] a lot of ground to cover to get there," he said. 

Saskatchewan's seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases is increasing again after having decreased in December. (Government of Saskatchewan)

Test positivity rate

Monday's test positivity rate was also high. In its Monday update, the province said 1,485 more tests were processed, but 286 new cases were reported.

Neudorf said the number of tests being performed is an important factor to consider.

"We've seen, as we were getting closer to Christmas and over the holiday period, the number of daily tests being done was lower than we had been seeing earlier in the month, and the test positivity was going up for a while," Neudorf said.

"It stabilized for a bit and now it is going up a little bit again. We're probably not testing as many people as should be tested at this point."

The number of new outbreaks declared is another important thing to track, Neudorf said.

Only three new outbreaks have been declared in the first five days of 2021, though one of those, in the northern village of Pinehouse, is a community-wide outbreak.

(CBC News Graphics)

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About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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