Sask. experts worried about exponential growth after spike in COVID-19

·4 min read

Two medical experts say they're worried about the rising number of COVID-19 cases across Saskatchewan.

On Thursday, the province announced 82 new cases of COVID-19, breaking the single-day record. Saskatoon had the most new cases at 37.

Dr. Anne Huang, the province's former deputy medical health officer, said she is concerned the new cases may overwhelm the health system.

"This looks to be the upward swing of an exponential curve," said Huang.

"If we were to plot to see the new infections each day, for the past, say, two, three weeks, we would see that, instead of a flat line, we would see this line trending upward very quickly."

Due to the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, an influx of new cases could get out of control if it's not stopped by contact tracing and quarantining.

We saw how the numbers went very quickly from two, three, four or five cases a day to 50, 60, 70, 80. - Dr. Hassan Masri

Huang said it's a good sign that Saskatchewan's COVID-19 related deaths have been relatively flat, at 25 people.

However, she said other provinces like Ontario and Quebec have shown the situation can change quickly if COVID-19 spreads to sick and elderly people.

"Even though the number of infections seem to be in a relatively healthy population, other jurisdictions have clearly demonstrated that we eventually will see that spread into the older population if we don't act to limit the spread."

Huang said she was encouraged to see the province begin restricting alcohol sales in Saskatoon bars and nightclubs. As of Oct. 30, alcohol consumption is prohibited in nightclubs after 10 p.m. CST and nightclubs have to close at 11 p.m. CST.

However, she said the province should bring in a mandatory mask policy for all businesses across the province, as well as hallways in apartments and condominiums, as a way to slow down new cases.

"We've actually seen business saying, you know what, we don't want to be the enforcer, but we want to keep ourselves and the employee and other customers safe," she said.

"So, if there's a mandatory masking policy, at least in businesses, then that would actually make it much easier for the business owners to focus on doing business."

Stay apart

Dr. Hassan Masri said he's also concerned to see the growing COVID-19 numbers in Saskatoon.

Masri is an American and Canadian board certified ICU and internal medicine doctor in the city, and an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

He noted that the province has shown how strict adherence to the rules can keep numbers down.

"If you don't get control of the numbers, we saw how the numbers went very quickly from two, three, four or five cases a day to 50, 60, 70, 80," he said.

"But we also know that when the cases were 15, 40, 30, and we were extra disciplined and cautious and took the necessary precautions, that we managed to go the other way around."

Earlier this week, Dr. Masri posted a Facebook video that compared Saskatoon's recent COVID-19 infection rate to countries like Italy.

He pointed to how from Oct. 17 to 25, Saskatchewan saw its active case level jump to 619 from 329 and the number of hospitalized people increase to 25 from 11.

While keeping track of the number of the rate at which each new infection leads to others is important, Masri said there are a number of other factors at play.

"There are some limitations to that number," he said.

"And that's why even in my video, I talked about the doubling time and I talk about the number of active cases and hospitalization."

Rather than focusing on variables around potential spread, or even the amount of hospital beds available, Masri said everyone in the province should keep thinking about prevention.

"Prevention is always, always better than the cure or better than the treatment," he said.

"I've never been a fan of talking about, you know, do we have four more beds or eight more beds or 10 more beds? Because these are small numbers compared to what will happen if things go out of control."

He said ultimately prevention is up to individuals making the decision to wear masks, keep apart and stay home whenever possible.

"I know we're all fatigued," he said.

"I know we're all tired of this. But unfortunately, COVID is not fatigued or tired."