The Saskatchewan government has added a new layer of detail to its daily reporting of COVID-19 cases, but specifics on individual communities, even those with large populations, remain largely elusive.
The Ministry of Health updated its COVID-19 dashboard to reflect active and new cases in 32 distinct zones across the province.
"The 32 zones are small enough to provide more localized information on the location of cases, without compromising an individual's privacy," a ministry spokesperson said Thursday.
The ministry said the data should be used by people to assess the risk of exposure in the communities, "as well as to promote education and awareness of COVID-19 transmission."
Before the map was made more detailed, case information was shared for 13 zones that covered much larger swaths of land and combined case numbers for more communities.
How to navigate the map
To find out which zone your community falls in on the new map, click here to view an index.
Then head to the ministry's COVID-19 dashboard and map and click on your community's zone. You'll be able to see how many active cases there are and how many of those are new cases. The dashboard is updated every day when the province releases its daily COVID-19 data, typically around 1:30 p.m. CST.
For example, the province's northernmost communities, — Uranium City, Fond du Lac and Stony Rapids — are in the "Far North Central" zone. There are currently no known cases there.
Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan's two largest cities, each have a zone named after them. However, those zones cover those cities as well as several nearby communities — 24 nearby communities, in the case of Saskatoon. Therefore that zone doesn't actually reflect the number of cases in Saskatoon alone.
Prince Albert, with a population seven times smaller than Saskatoon, is the only city in the province to have a zone to itself. This makes it easier to track that city's recent rise in cases in the wake of an outbreak at a local gospel outreach centre. A daily scan of the dashboard shows that from Oct. 10 to Oct. 14, health officials recorded 28 new cases of COVID-19 in Prince Albert.
CBC News asked the ministry why Prince Albert gets its own zone while larger cities like Regina and Saskatoon do not.
"The zones are based on the Saskatchewan Health Authority network boundaries," the spokesperson said.
When asked in the past about the specific location of new COVID-19 cases, Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, has said people should act as if the virus is everywhere,.
A map specific to northern reserves
People looking to track COVID-19 cases on northern reserves have a different, complimentary option.
The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) — which represents communities belonging to the Prince Albert Grand Council, Meadow Lake Tribal Council, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and Lac La Ronge Indian Band — releases a daily map on its Facebook page showing the number of total cases, including the number of active cases, in northern communities.
The map has five zones that focus on First Nation on-reserve communities within the NITHA partnership. Some of these communities are not included in the provincial government's index of communities.
There is overlap between the NITHA map and the provincial one.
"NITHA numbers are included in the provincial numbers," a NITHA spokesperson said this week. "All we have done is extrapolate the cases that are specifically within our partner communities."
The NITHA Facebook page also shares advisories from particular groups or communities, such as the announcement Thursday that two people in Sucker River, near La Ronge, have tested positive for the virus.