More restrictions possible: Dr. Shahab

Here are some highlights from Thursday’s COVID-19 modelling update from chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, as well as the update on vaccinations from Saskatchewan Health Authority.

In his latest update, Dr. Shahab pointed to numbers showing Saskatchewan as leading the country in active cases per 100,000 population, at 313.

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For daily active cases they are at 271.1 per 100,000 for the week of Jan. 5-11. The rate of daily new cases is at 320.7 and the daily new case rate is 26.5. “We should really aim to go below 10,” said Shahab of the latter number.

The daily test positive rate was at 12.3 percent, which was also concerning to Shahab who said the rate should be below five percent.

During his presentation Dr. Shahab noted the importance of everyone following the health protocols — otherwise they might see more severe restrictions in the coming days.

Dr. Shahab emphasized continuing to follow the familiar measures: follow the mask order, to physically distance, to reduce close contacts and non essential travel, work from home as much as possible, to take advantage of the outdoors, to wash hands and sanitize often, and to know and abide by public health guidelines.

For the most part people are complying, but in some cases they were not, pointing to lack of mask use, or numbers of people at a table and so on.

It wasn’t fair to business owners to always have to explain to patrons how to follow the guidelines, said Dr. Shahab. People needed to know the guidelines and “follow them to a dot.”

“That is the only chance we have,” said Shahab, or in a week or two “it could lead to further severe restrictions.”

Dr. Shahab also went through the modeling numbers. He noted that with the modeling in December, the indication was the current measures could bring the numbers down. But the latest modelling was saying that with current measures “we will be lucky to maintain the status quo.”

“It’s not trending down and that is something we really need to think about in terms of what can we all do to push the curve down and what further measures are required to further reduce transmission.”

If even five or 10 percent of people were not adhering to the measures they could easily be getting into a “red” situation of 1500-1600 cases a day, he said. This was a direction they didn’t want to go, and there would be an impact on hospitalizations as well.

In his update, Derek Miller of the Saskatchewan Health Authority updated on the vaccine rollout. He said on Wednesday they administered the most vaccines in a day in spite of the blizzard conditions in the province.

One key message from his presentation was that the vaccine was safe, and emphasized that high uptake required strong communication. He also noted the World Health Organization lists vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health risks.

Safety of patients, residents and health care staff was a number one priority. Another key message from Miller was that “speed matters” and the need to be faster and smarter, and the message that “stable, predictable and large volume vaccine allocations make rapid delivery easier”.

Another message stressed repeated from health officials at the news conference was that the health system was “at its most fragile point yet in the pandemic”. Miller emphasized they needed from the Saskatchewan public to be “all hands on deck to contain the spread of the virus”.

Scott Livingstone, CEO of the SHA, also noted that hospital ICU capacity was at 95 percent for both COVID and non-COVID patients.

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