COVID-19 in Sask: With boundary shakeup, total northern Saskatchewan cases now listed at 16
Of province's 104 cases, six are now in hospital, including two people in ICU
Click here for the latest: COVID-19 in Sask: Rural and urban response will differ, health authority says
- Saskatchewan now has 104 cases of COVID-19, including three people who have recovered.
- Two Saskatoon corrections officers have tested positive for the virus.
- The Saskatchewan Health Authority says some staff are stealing crucial pandemic supplies.
- More than half of Saskatchewan's coronavirus cases are under 45 years of age.
- The majority (57 per cent) are male.
- New testing sites have opened in Moose Jaw, Yorkton, Swift Current and Weyburn. They are by appointment only.
- Provincial parks remained closed because of COVID-19.
With nine new cases reported Friday, Saskatchewan now has a total of 104 COVID-19 cases, including three people who have recovered from the virus.
"We can see now people coming out of, for the most part, a mild illness and recovering," Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said at his daily news conference Friday.
Six active cases are in hospital, including two people who are under intensive care.
Seven cases are instances of local transmission, where no link to recent travel can be found.
Shahab said 7,580 COVID-19 tests have now been performed province-wide.
"Out of 7,000 tests, the test positive rate is low, which is a good thing," he said.
The province revised the boundaries of the regions in which it's reporting cases, including the introduction Friday of a sixth new region called "far north" (in addition to just "north").
The boundary line between those regions was not immediately clear Friday.
As a result of the boundary revisions, however, the overall number of northern cases now stands at 16, a sharp increase over the three northern cases reported on Thursday.
For the purposes of the map below, the North remains one region:
Enough PPE for health care workers
Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said there is enough personal protective equipment to go around for front-line health care workers — even though some of that equipment has allegedly been stolen.
- Sask. Health Authority CEO says he knows 'for a fact' staff involved in stealing masks, gloves from hospitals
The health authority is ordering supplies, such as ventilators, to ready for a potential surge in hospital cases and expects those orders to arrive in the coming weeks, Livingstone said.
Dr. Susan Shaw, the chief medical officer for the health authority, said only one of the six hospitalized COVID-19 patients is currently using a ventilator.
Saskatchewan has a total of 91 adult ventilators at the moment and has ordered 250 more at a time when every other health body in the world is doing so, Health Minister Jim Reiter has previously said.
More than half of cases under the age of 45
While the elderly and people over the age of 65 are most vulnerable to the gravest symptoms of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 can infect people of all ages.
Just ask Jennifer White.
The Holbein, Sask.-area resident tested positive for the virus after a recent trip to Mexico. She returned to Saskatchewan on March 18, via Westjet flight 600 from Calgary to Saskatoon.
White initially wrote off her tiredness as jet lag. But it soon morphed into a fever and a deep, nasty cough.
"My eyes felt like they were on fire," she told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition on Friday.
White had difficulty breathing, plus bouts of diarrhea.
"Eventually I lost my taste and my smell," she said.
Shahab, speaking at his Friday news conference, said "while the characteristic symptoms of COVID-19 are malaise and headache initially but then cough, and then it can lead to shortness of breath," it is "unusual" to have diarrhea.
White received her positive COVID-19 test result on March 22. Her husband, Steve, has also tested positive. He's 47. She's 43.
"I feel very lucky because I can see there are young people who are even younger than me who still have needed medical care, so I mean that doesn't matter either, what your age is," White said.
White's story puts a face to one of the statistics that jumped out the most this week, when Saskatchewan health officials made good on Premier Scott Moe's earlier promise of more transparency and released a significantly higher amount of demographic information about the province's 104 cases.
Notably, as of the new numbers provided Friday, more than half of Saskatchewan's COVID-19 cases — 53 people — were aged anywhere up to and including 44 years of age. Out of those, four are 19 or younger.
The remaining 51 cases are 45 years old or older, with 18 of those falling under the most vulnerable category of 65 years or older.
Also of note: 57 per cent of all cases are male.
Here's the age breakdown of cases updated to Friday.
Here's a graph charting the continued rise in Saskatchewan COVID-19 cases.
White's 811 health line and testing experience
White also shared some insight into how quickly she got back her test result, once she bowed out of the 811 health line queue.
On March 20, she called the province's 811 line, which gives people a call-back option
"After about three hours, I'm starting to panic with the fever," she said. "I thought I should just call my family doctor and to see if he recommends maybe I go to the E.R. or something. He did assessments over the phone and he did the referral to public health for me through fax. And it was about an hour later that they called me back."
White — whose Holbein-area acreage is west of Prince Albert, where the province opened a testing site last week — underwent her test on March 21 and got her results back the next day, "which was unbelievable to me."
"So the whole procedure was pretty good."
The 811 health line that she had called on March 20 did not call her back until nine hours after she took the call-back option, however.
"Had I waited and not called my family doctor like that — that's a long time to wait when I'm panicking about a fever."
Asked about her condition Friday, she said, "I'm feeling much better than I have been, that's for sure."
Province mulling drive-thru sites
Previously, health officials announced by-appointment-only COVID-19 testing sites in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) confirmed Friday testing sites are now also operating in Moose Jaw, Yorkton, Swift Current and Weyburn, "with 19 sites open across the integrated north and six in integrated rural testing sites."
Officials said they are mulling more sites, including potential drive-thru sites.
"Nothing has been ruled out," a spokesperson for the health ministry said.
"[The existing] testing sites are in addition to the testing that was already being done at SHA facilities, testing by referrals only," a spokesperson for the health authority said via email.
"Referral-based testing is also available through SHA community services such as public health and home-care, in addition to referral-based testing offered at both SHA and non-SHA primary health care sites."
Nearly 7,000 tests have been performed in the province to date.
Here's a chart showing the continued rise in testing:
Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said Friday it's "absolutely essential" to expand not just the number of testing sites but also who is being tested.
"We want to be catching as many people as early as possible," he said during his daily virtual news conference.
Earlier this week, Shahab said he's recommended that the province begin testing people who have COVID-19 symptoms but who have not travelled.
It's not clear if that's become practice, however.
"When you see a recommendation like that discussed in a press conference, how is that being communicated to the public about exactly what's going on?" Meili said.
As of early Friday afternoon, the province's testing info page stated that "you do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if in the past 14 days you have not travelled outside Canada or had contact with someone diagnosed as having COVID-19."
By late Friday, the health ministry said "testing has been expanded," pointing to this March 25 memo.
Reminder: provincial parks are not open
With temperatures warming Friday, the Saskatchewan government sent out a reminder that provincial parks are nevertheless closed for the moment.
"We understand many people are eager to get out of the house and spend time outdoors," Parks Minister Gene Makowsky said in a release. "However, our provincial parks are not where people should be congregating right now."
Park campgrounds and camp sites were closed as of Monday. That also applies to park washrooms, visitor centres and picnic areas.
Saskatchewan Parks will be offering online educational park programming and activities starting this coming Monday on Facebook. People can find more details on that on the parks website.
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with files from The Morning Edition