4 takeaways from Sask. doctors' latest COVID-19 huddle

·3 min read
Physicians working for the Saskatchewan Health Authority meet weekly to discuss key indicators of COVID-19, as well as the province's ongoing vaccination efforts.  (Saskatchewan Health Authority - image credit)
Physicians working for the Saskatchewan Health Authority meet weekly to discuss key indicators of COVID-19, as well as the province's ongoing vaccination efforts. (Saskatchewan Health Authority - image credit)

Doctors working for the Saskatchewan Health Authority meet virtually once a week on Thursdays to discuss the latest COVID-19 key indicators for the province.

The health authority then posts the presentations online.

As Saskatchewan aggressively lowers the age eligibility for booking vaccine appointments and gets closer to relaxing or lifting some public health measures under its "reopening roadmap" plan, here are four notable observations physicians made Thursday about the current COVID-19 situation in the province.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are decreasing, but not in Saskatoon or the north

Physicians warned about a month ago that hospital capacity was being stretched due to an increase in infected patients. Those pressures appear to be easing — at least in some places.

The rate of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in Regina and rural Saskatchewan has decreased since mid-April, held steady in Saskatoon and increased in the north.

<cite>(Saskatchewan Health Authority)</cite>
(Saskatchewan Health Authority)

Officials say they are doing a "cautious review" of Saskatoon's capacity, including preparation for surges if required.

Provincewide, demand for intensive care beds has yet to reach a point where a significant amount of triage is needed.

ICUs in Regina had recently housed patients two to a room. That has now ceased.

Schools themselves are not leading transmission sites

While there have been outbreaks in schools, the schools themselves have often not been the site of transmission.

Instead, contact between household members has accounted for the majority of exposures.

<cite>(Saskatchewan Health Authority)</cite>
(Saskatchewan Health Authority)

"Acquisition of COVID-19 among school students, staff and teachers has mainly occurred outside of school," according to the presentation given by Dr. Lanre Medu, a medical health officer with the health authority.

Variants dominate in some areas

Data shared among doctors illustrates starkly how coronavirus variants of concern have transformed the COVID-19 landscape in Saskatchewan.

<cite>(Saskatchewan Health Authority)</cite>
(Saskatchewan Health Authority)

In Saskatchewan's southeast, 25 new variant of concern cases were identified during the week of April 19 to April 25 — a number that was actually higher than the 23 new COVID-19 cases announced in the region that week (cases are typically identified as a variant through screening after they're officially reported as COVID-19 cases).

Regina was not far behind, with 77 variants cases identified that week and 87 new COVID-19 cases reported.

The far northwest, where the total population is small, led regions in both test positivity and the average case rate per 100,000 people.

Health workers are feeling the public's anger

According to one presentation slide, there has been an increase in people taking out their frustrations against public health staff.

This includes abusive verbal and written threats, with some workers being personally targeted.

"Income security" was cited as the main reason for public concern or abuse heaped on workers, after people are told they have to self-isolate after becoming infected with COVID-19.

<cite>(Saskatchewan Health Authority)</cite>
(Saskatchewan Health Authority)

Earlier on Thursday, the health authority told CBC News it's increasingly challenged in identifying all close contacts of infected people. It cited people's reluctance to seek testing as one reason.

"We encourage anyone who attended [events] to get tested if they have any symptoms, and to support contact tracing to reduce the risk of community transmission," a spokesperson said via email.

Thursday's health authority virtual town hall also included a section on the importance of civility between health workers.

Read the May 6 physician town hall slides in their entirety below. On mobile? Click here.