'The government needs to act': Experts warn of rising COVID-19 rates in Regina
REGINA -- Saskatchewan’s capital city continues to be the epicentre of COVID-19 variant spread in the province.
Infectious disease and public health experts are sounding the alarm about the rapidly increasing case numbers in Regina as the Queen City approaches a new peak.
"Things have just changed dramatically in just seven to ten days in a way I can’t really recall things happening before with the pandemic and so it’s definitely of concern," Dr. Alex Wong, an infectious disease physician in Regina, told CTV News on Monday.
Over the past seven days, Regina has averaged 82 new cases per day, while the rest of the province has combined to average 92.
Regina now accounts for 781 of 904, or 86 per cent, of confirmed and presumptive variant cases in Saskatchewan. The variant case numbers in Regina have grown from 308 to 781 in the last week.
Testing has increased in Regina with an average of 853 tests per day in the past seven days, which is up from 556 during the previous week, however test positivity has remained around 10 per cent.
"We’re just really uncovering that there’s a lot more underground COVID that’s been spreading in Regina than we were aware of just a few weeks ago," Kyle Anderson, an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan, said.
On Feb. 18, Regina hit its lowest active case count since November with 332. In the 32 days since, the number of active cases in the city have grown by 118 per cent to 726.
About half of the new cases on Monday were in the Queen City and Regina is responsible for 49.2 per cent of all active cases in Saskatchewan.
During the height of second wave in December, Regina peaked at 1,179 active cases, but Anderson said that number was inflated due to a backlog of recoveries and was close to about 750 active cases. He said Regina is quickly approaching a new high.
"We’re adding about 50 active cases each day to the overall total and it’s continuing to accelerate, the number that we’re seeing added each day is continuing to increase," Anderson said.
"There’s no indication that things are going to be slowing down anytime soon. If we look at the number of tests that are being done in Regina, the positivity and then the rate of new cases all together, usually there’s something that will show us that things are going to slowdown… but right now, positivity continues to go up and our incidents is going as well."
Intensive care admissions have also begun to increase in Regina. On Thursday, there were 11 COVID-19 patients requiring ICU care, but that increased to 16 on Sunday.
Since Friday, 66 per cent of all new cases have been in people under the age of 40. The number of young people with no underlying health conditions ending up in hospital is also increasing, according to Dr. Wong.
"It’s definitely worrisome to see people who are otherwise entirely healthy and very young become so sick in relatively short order," he said.
All infectious COVID-19 patients in Regina are currently at the General Hospital, which is sitting at 75 per cent capacity in its ICU, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
The SHA said it increased intensive care capacity in Regina on Monday by eight beds at the General Hospital and two at the Pasqua Hospital in anticipation of a potential surge.
With the situation continuing to worsen in Regina by the day, Dr. Wong and Anderson are both urging the government to enact stronger restrictions to break the chain of infection.
"The government needs to act," Dr. Wong said. "My public health colleagues here in Regina have called for measures similar to those from last March, but it is not acceptable at this point to do nothing."
Until that happens, both advise residents to take steps to lower their close contacts, like working from home if you can and limiting trips to grocery stores to one person once a week.
"Everyone should be trying to think about limiting their exposures right now because we aren’t out of the woods yet," Anderson said.