Public health officials announced 98 new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan Thursday, pushing the number of active cases in the province to 2,066.
That’s a significant drop from 132 new cases announced Wednesday, but recent weather may have impacted the number of new cases identified, the province said in a news release.
“Weather and logistical impediments resulted in a volume of specimens reaching the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory after the reporting period for November 19,” the release said.
Twenty-five of the new cases were in the Regina area, 14 are from the south central region, 12 cases were identified in each of the north central and northwest regions, and 10 cases were in the Saskatoon region.
The northeast, southeast and central east regions each have five new cases. The far northeast has three new cases, the far northwest has two, and one new case was announced in the central west zone.
Four of the new cases have pending location information.
Seven more health-care workers have tested positive for COVID-19. The total number of health-care workers to test positive since March is 163, including 90 within the last seven weeks alone.
Of Thursday’s new cases, 24 are people aged 19 or younger, while 33 are people in their 20s or 30s. Twenty-five people from 40 to 59 years old also tested positive.
Five more people were admitted to hospital to be treated for COVID-19, increasing the total current hospitalizations to 83. Of those patients, 21 are in intensive care — an increase of four from Wednesday.
The provincial government released data breaking down current hospital and ICU patients by age group, as of Wednesday (when 76 people were in hospital, and 17 in ICU):
- 19 years old or younger: one hospitalization.
- 20-39: six hospitalizations.
- 40-59: 17 hospitalizations, including seven in ICU.
- 60-79: 27 hospitalizations, including nine in ICU.
- 80 or older: 25 hospitalizations, including one in ICU.
Another 132 people were deemed recovered from COVID-19 Thursday. The number of COVID-19 deaths in Saskatchewan remains at 32.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority has been granted approval by the province to hire 76 more contact tracers, 50 of whom have already been hired, said Health Minister Paul Merriman on Thursday.
The health authority will also be ramping up rapid testing, Merriman said.
That method of COVID-19 testing will be used mainly for asymptomatic testing of health-care workers and staff at long-term care facilities. Once fully developed, rapid testing will increase testing capacity by about 640 tests per day, he said.
Thursday also marked the first day of new public health restrictions that were announced earlier in the week, including a requirement that all Saskatchewan residents wear masks when in indoor public places.
Visitations at long-term and personal care homes are also officially suspended.
Province releases new trend data
The provincial government released COVID-19 modelling Thursday afternoon, but it also released information about general day-to-day COVID-19 data that show the current situation in greater detail.
As of Nov. 15, about 70 per cent of known active COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan could be linked to exposure in a home or through a “congretional/communal living setting.”
As of Nov. 18, Saskatchewan had the fourth-highest seven-day test-positivity rate in Canada. The province registered 104 positive cases on average per 100,000 people. That was just slightly higher than Quebec’s 103 per 100,000.
Saskatoon is the region with the most cases in Saskatchewan, but Saskatchewan’s north zone — east, central and west — is seeing higher case numbers than Regina right now.
From Nov. 11-17, Saskatoon’s test-positivity rate of 8.9 was fourth-highest in the province, however. The far northeast (14.1 per cent), north central (12.3) and northeast regions (nine) had the highest test-positivity rates.
Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the numbers over the last seven weeks mark the first true wave of the COVID-19 pandemic for Saskatchewan.
“For us, I would submit that this is our first true test,” Shahab said Thursday. “We have prepared well, but we are now being tested as residents of Saskatchewan, the health-care system and other sectors that are impacted by COVID, and how we all have to respond to that.”
Dr. Anne Huang, a former deputy medical officer in Saskatoon, said she’s concerned by the effective reproductive number, which calculates how many people a positive case infects on average.
For Saskatchewan in general, the effective reproductive number was 3.3.
Regina’s was the same, the integrated rural number was 3.5, and Saskatoon’s was 2.6.
But the integrated north’s effective reproductive number was 4.1, putting the region at a dangerous level, according to the modelling.
“We’ve never seen numbers this high,” said Huang. “This is rapid exponential growth, so that is really concerning.”