Sask's top doc considering more measures next week as ICU availability declines to 5%

·3 min read
Sask's top doc considering more measures next week as ICU availability declines to 5%

Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says he will recommend new restrictions next week if COVID-19 case numbers don't decline.

The province is averaging 313 new cases a day over the last week, a rate that Dr. Saqib Shahab said is too high.

"If you continue to see cases as high as this week I will be speaking to the Minister of Health Mr. [Paul] Merriman, about additional measures which may be required next week," Shahab said Thursday during an update on the virus.

The Saskatchewan government has refrained from introducing new COVID-19 containment measures since mid-December, choosing to rely on public compliance to reduce transmission.

"We should all be knowledgeable over the guidelines and follow them to a dot. It's the only chance we've got. Otherwise in a week or two it will lead to stricter restrictions, and that always has stronger consequences," Shahab said.

On Tuesday, the province extended it's current health measures to at least Jan. 29.

Worst infection rates in Canada

Saskatchewan's rate of active cases continues to be the highest in Canada for the fourth consecutive day, as neighbouring provinces like Manitoba and Alberta have seen a decline.

As of Thursday, the rate of active cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan was 329 per 100,000 people. The national average is 207 per 100,000 people.

"Our case numbers have been going up," Shahab said. "We're also the second-highest in Canada in terms of our average cases over the last seven days."

The province falls just behind Quebec.

"We're seeing a significant escalation and we really need to pull together to address this," Shahab said.

Saskatchewan's average test positivity rate is 12 per cent, but in some areas, like the far north central zone, it's as high as 31 per cent.

Shahab said transmission is found "in health care settings and workplaces, but primarily it is household exposure and then in other public and other social settings."

He added those who are testing positive for COVID-19 have an average of one to 35 close contacts.

"We should be able to count our close contacts on one hand," Shahab said.

ICU availability declines to 5%

Rising case numbers have also led to rising hospitalization.

Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone said ICU availability in the province is at five per cent.

"We're at 95 per cent capacity. And about 34 per cent of the current ICU beds are taken up with COVID patients," Livingstone said.

He said the SHA has the ability to double capacity, but he added "we're pushing ourselves to the limit."

"This is the most fragile point in the pandemic," Livingstone said.

Since the pandemic began there have been nearly 700 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, with over 200 people dead. Hospitalizations continue to break record after record.

"This has not been a minor event by any stretch of the imagination," Shahab said.