Sask. may see doubling of COVID-19 cases in next 6 months, new modelling shows
REGINA -- Saskatchewan may see at least a doubling of COVID-19 cases across the province over the next six months, according to new government models.
The models, released on Thursday, show the province, at best, could have an additional 4,830 cases (76 per day) and five hospitalizations per day over the next six months.
There would be an additional 34 deaths over six months in this scenario.
However, the models show bleaker scenarios for the province.
Worst case, the province could see 469,000 additional cases (8,390 per day) and 677 hospital admissions per day over the next six months.
There would be an additional 4,800 deaths over this period in this scenario.
The models can only tell people what may happen over this period and they are dependent on a number of factors.
For instance, in the best case scenario, 60 per cent of people need to be wearing masks, 20 per cent of the public would be engaging in private gatherings, and only five people would be involved in these gatherings.
Worst case, only 20 per cent of people are wearing masks, half of the public is engaging in social gatherings, and there are 20 people involved in these social gatherings.
Between the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios are two versions that estimate the current state of the province.
In version two, there would be 304,000 additional cases over the next six months (3,970 per day) and 261 additional hospital admissions per day. There would be 2,140 deaths over the period.
In version one, there would be an additional 341,000 cases over the next six months (5,020 per day) and an additional 400 hospitalizations per day. There would be 3,190 deaths over the period.
The province’s latest seven day rolling average has Saskatchewan between version one and two.
Updated COVID-19 modelling scenarios presented by the Saskatchewan government. (Government of Saskatchewan)
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said it’s possible the province can be in the best case scenario, as long as people limit gatherings and shopping outings, wear masks, physically distance, wash hands and stay home when sick.
“Otherwise, we can’t bend the curve,” he said. “It’s not just a few of us that need to do our part. It’s all of us.”
SASK. INCHING CLOSER TO THE RED ZONE
During the press conference, Shahab showed a dial of where the province is at in terms of being in the danger zone.
Provincially, the province is in the dark orange zone, meaning one person with COVID-19 is infecting more than one person.
Regina and integrated rural areas are also in the dark orange zone, while Saskatoon is in the orange zone and the integrated north area has reached the beginning of the red zone.
Shahab said the province needs to be in the green zone, where one person with COVID-19 is infecting fewer than one person.
Saskatchewan as of Nov. 19 is in the dark orange zone. (Government of Saskatchewan)
Shahab said the province is seeing a surge in cases.
The province is third in the country with the most active cases per 100,000 people. The test positivity rate provincially is 6.7 per cent.
“All of these things are creeping up and we want to see that turned around,” he said.
He described this situation as the province’s first wave and first test to handle the pandemic.
Shahab said the province needs cases to fall and then slowly burn out, which would allow officials to better manage the situation going forward.
“Through fairly simple measures, we can bend the curve,” he said.
The longer it takes to bend the curve, he said, the province will need to further intervene and add new restrictions, like a lockdown.
CONTACT TRACING A CHALLENGE
During the conference, Health Minister Paul Merriman said contact tracing has become challenging, particularly in Saskatoon.
He said the average person has about 11 close contacts, and that the government is receiving help from the federal government for contact tracing.
As well, the province has hired more staff and re-deployed employees to support tracking efforts.
“The next few weeks will be important,” Merriman said. “This pandemic will only end when we have widespread access of a safe and effective vaccine.”
Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman speaking Nov. 19 about rising COVID-19 cases. (Marc Smith/CTV News)
The province expects to receive approximately 180,000 doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
Merriman said the federal government has secured an initial batch of six million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in the first quarter of 2021.
Shahab said he expects the province to be in a better place come next fall should more people get vaccinated.