70-80% of recently screened COVID-19 cases in Regina likely Variants of Concern: SHA
REGINA -- Variants of concern have likely become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Regina, according to a Saskatchewan Health Authority Medical Health Officer.
"The probable dominant COVID virus circulating in our community is likely to be one of the variants of concern at this stage," Dr. Maurice Hennink said, during a press conference Friday.
Dr. Hennink said that of the COVID-19 cases recently screened for Variants of Concern, around 70 to 80 per cent are presumed to be variants.
The SHA said it has identified variants in outbreak settings, including schools and care homes. It is unclear how many presumed and confirmed variant cases are connected to outbreaks.
The province reported an additional 77 presumptive positive variants of concern in Regina on Friday, and warned of increased transmission in the community.
The cases have not yet been confirmed by genome sequencing.
This is in addition to 70 previously confirmed variant cases in Regina, including 64 B.1.1.7 cases and six B.22.214.171.124 cases.
According to Dr. Hennink, the 77 presumptive variant cases seen in Regina Friday are from March 8 to 10. The previous confirmed variant cases in the province are from mid-January to the end of February.
Dr. Hennink said more public health measures might be considered.
“We have to look very carefully at the numbers that we have, and the potential interpretation of that in terms of where we could be going,” said Dr. Hennink.
The province said public health will be monitoring transmission of variants of concern over the weekend and will take additional public health measures if the number of positive variant cases does not start to decrease.
The province is asking Regina residents to take additional precautions to protect themselves and others.
Residents over the age of 50 are being asked to consider not increasing their household bubbles. The province said shopping and travel should be limited to essentials only.
If even mild symptoms develop, or if you have been in contact with anyone with mild symptoms, stay home and get tested.
The SHA is increasing testing, contact tracing and case management.
NDP Leader Ryan Meili expects to see a lot more cases confirmed in Regina, and feels the province isn’t being clear with its messaging.
“Scott Moe saying let’s open those bubbles, and Dr. Shahab saying it’s not the time to expand your bubble. This is the sort of mixed messaging and unclear leadership from Mr. Moe that has lead to problems along the way,” NDP Leader Ryan Meili said.
Young people under the age of 19 accounted for approximately 20 per cent of active cases in Regina during the first week of March, according to a weekly monitoring report released by the government.
Regina Public Schools said it continues to follow direction from the government and shares concerns about variants and the increased spread in Regina. No changes to school attendance is being planned at this time.
Regina Catholic Schools said it is not considering any changes either.
From Mar. 1 to 7, active cases among children and youth in the Regina zone hit 103. There were 438 tests processed for the age category and the test positivity rate was 16.9 per cent.
During this week, the average number of active cases in Regina was 450.
This is compared to Saskatoon, where during the same week there were 69 active cases among people under 19. There were 607 tests processed for the age category and the test positivity rate was 6.4 per cent.
The average number of active cases in Saskatoon was 291 this week.
In the province, there was a total of 424 active cases among residents under 19 in the first week of March. The weekly test positivity rate was 11.7 per cent and there were 2,255 tests processed throughout the province for the age category.