The Saskatchewan Health Authority says the province continues to have the highest COVID-19 death rate in Canada.
As of Friday, the total death toll from the pandemic in Saskatchewan was 863.
The province had a 14-day rate of 5.3 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population as of Thursday — the highest among any province or territory, according to federal government data.
At a physicians' town hall on Thursday night, the provincial health authority shared a slide drawing on that data, showing that in the last 14 days, Saskatchewan's death rate has plateaued, but still remains high.
While new cases are on the decline, Saskatchewan also still has the highest new case rate among the provinces in Canada, according to the federal data.
"So although our COVID daily case rates have come down — the leading indicator and the active case numbers are declining — we're coming to this from a very, very high base," said Dr. Johnmark Opondo, a medical health officer in Saskatoon.
"Our fourth wave has been the biggest of the COVID waves we've experienced, and this is really still having an impact."
Opondo said a fifth wave is entirely possible.
"The potential of the fifth wave is real, partly because we do have a confluence of factors which includes issues such as fast-waning [vaccine] immunity with a very, very, very long variant of concern."
Immunity among those who were eligible to get vaccinated first, and did so, is now not as high. This means third shots are necessary.
Along with a possible fifth wave, non-COVID pressures could also have an effect on the health-care system, including the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV — a common respiratory virus, Opondo said.
Also, as people move indoors for gatherings due to the winter season, the risk of transmission is higher.
The health authority says all modelling points to COVID-19 surges not being contained until early 2022 at best.
Slides at Thursday's town hall also indicated that the Saskatchewan critical care system continues to be over capacity.
Meanwhile, the delta variant continues to account for almost 100 per cent of COVID-19 cases that have been traced to a variant of the coronavirus that causes the illness.