Despite high vaccination rates among Saskatchewan senior citizens, the province has logged COVID-19 cases in 30 personal and long-term care homes in the past two weeks.
The cases range from just one or two to outbreaks of 17 and are scattered across the province.
Last week Sherbrooke Community Centre, a long-term care home in Saskatoon, notified families that 17 of its residents had tested positive for the virus causing COVID-19.
"This kind of scattered smattering of numbers is concerning because they're happening at a time that the delta variant is driving cases into the stratosphere," said Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiology professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
On Monday, Saskatchewan recorded 519 positive COVID-19 cases, the second-highest increase since the pandemic started, behind Sunday's high of 543 cases.
Hospitalizations also hit a pandemic high, with 253 people hospitalized with the virus in the province.
A spokesperson for the Sherbrooke Community Centre said 96 per cent of its residents were fully vaccinated for COVID-19, but declined requests for an interview.
As of Sept. 17, Sherbrooke's cases were split between the care centre's Kinsmen Village, where eight residents tested positive for the virus causing COVID-19, and Veterans Village, where nine residents tested positive.
Muhajarine said several factors may be driving continued outbreaks in long-term and personal care facilities.
He noted that many senior citizens have compromised immune systems and may need booster shots to maintain immunity. Muhajarine also said unvaccinated staff could be contributing to continued COVID cases and outbreaks in long-term and personal care homes.
Senior citizens have the highest COVID vaccination rates in the province.
About 90 per cent of people 80 years of age and older are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, according to the province's latest numbers. That number drops slightly to 88 per cent for people 70 and older, and 84 per cent for people 60 and older.
The province started offering booster shots for immune compromised people including residents of long-term and personal care homes earlier this month, citing evidence of waning vaccine effectiveness over time for compromised people.
Muhajarine said the government should also mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for people working in communal settings like long-term care homes and schools.
"These are not discretionary, non-essential activities," Muhajarine said.
Last week Premier Scott Moe announced that all employees of provincial Crown corporations, ministries and agencies must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative tests by Oct. 1.
The order does not apply to private long-term and personal care homes. A spokesperson for Sherbrooke said they are waiting for clarification from the province as to whether or not their employees must be vaccinated to work on site.
A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Health Authority said local medical health officers can direct decisions about family presence and visitor restrictions in long-term and personal care homes in response to the number of COVID-19 cases in individual communities.