Number of COVID cases climbs to 285 with roughly half in people under 44

Raywat Deonandan, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa and a Global Health Epidemiologist, says health officials should be doing more to target young people with messaging about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Roughly 50 per cent of cases across Canada are in middle-aged people

This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. (NIAID-RML via Reuters)

Almost half of the cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan have been recorded in people under the age of 45, according to data released by the province.

There were seven new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the province on Friday, with one being listed as presumptive, bringing the provincial total to 285.

The number of deaths remains the same as does the number of people in hospital, as there are six people receiving in-patient care and two more receiving intensive care. The province states that 30 healthcare workers are infected with the virus, but say the source of their infection may not be health care-related.

The number of people in the province who have recovered from COVID-19 is approaching the 50 per cent mark. The province says there are 146 active cases, compared to 136 listed as recovered, an increase of 21 when compared to Thursday. 

The 285 cases are spread throughout Saskatchewan:

  • 142 were recorded in Saskatoon.
  • 60 were recorded in Regina.
  • 52 were recorded in the north.
  • 15 were recorded in the south
  • 10 were recorded in the central regions.
  • Six were recorded in the far north.
This map displays the number of COVID-19 cases per provincial region as of April 10, 2020. (Supplied/Government of Saskatchewan)

In Saskatchewan, 141 of the province's 285 cases are in people younger than 44 and account for roughly 49 per cent of cases, which is about the same as what Canada is seeing across the board nationally. 

'Public perceptions are based on old data'

Raywat Deonandan is an associate professor at the University of Ottawa and a Global Health Epidemiologist. While many in the public originally thought that only older people are at risk, recent trends indicate that anyone can fall victim.

"It tells us that a lot of the public perceptions are based on old data," said Deonandan.

Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says he'd like to see more testing being done in Canadian communities across the board, but says resources are limited. (Supplied by Raywat Deonandan)

He explained the virus was originally described as something that affected the very old when it emerged out of China, as it moved across Asia, Europe and into the United States, the demographics of those affected continued to expand. 

"Everybody is susceptible to infection," he said. "This is a novel virus, meaning nobody has any immunity to it. So everyone can catch it. The question is when you catch it, who becomes seriously ill?" 

He said the data indicates that anyone with an underlying respiratory condition — like asthma, diabetes or obesity — alongside smokers, are at risk of becoming seriously ill with the virus, but said even those who are healthy are at risk. 

"The young are not immune, nor should they take this lightly," he said. 

Looking at the trend in Saskatchewan, he says more needs to be done to keep this age group informed about the seriousness of the virus. 

"From a public health lens, we care about who gets infected because they're likely to infect other people," he said.

"The data that suggests that almost half of the people are under 45 tells us that we need to target the public health messaging to that demographic to prevent them from spreading it further. They're the ones who are actually driving the epidemic, in my view."

CBC Saskatoon has reached out to the Ministry of Health for a response to Deonandan's remarks, but a response was not immediately received. 

In Saskatchewan, the number of cases in people over the age of 65 is one of the smallest categories within Saskatchewan's 285 cases — with 48 cases recorded, it's second lowest only to the number of cases in people under the age of 19, accounting for 16 per cent. 

When asked what advice he has for younger people around COVID-19, Deonandan paraphrased a remark made online by UFC fighter Max Holloway, who said while he may be strong and tough enough to overcome the virus, he may spread it to others, like his grandmother who won't be able to fight back. 

Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer, speaks at a COVID-19 news update. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

"Even if you think you're indestructible, you're not," he said. "But even if you are, the people around you are not. So this is a team effort and we need to stop the spread of the disease by everyone doing their part, especially young people." 

During a press conference on Thursday, Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer said people need to continue following recommendations from health officials, telling reporters: "Our curve remains flat."