Six new cases in Saskatchewan of COVID-19; now up to 72 total

SHA to expand capacity, looking at field hospitals in community centres and gymnasiums

The province has announced that as of March 24 there are six new, confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 72.

All 72 are confirmed cases. The breakdown is 60-40 percent, males to females. A total of  5,757 COVID-19 tests have been performed by the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory to date. 

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Of the 72 confirmed cases, two are ages 19 and under, 59 are between ages of 20-64, and 11 are 65 and older. No deaths have been reported in Saskatchewan so far.

The regional breakdown has 34 cases in Saskatoon, 22 in Regina, 8 in the central region, five in the south and three in the north.

A news conference with chief medical officer Dr. Saqib Shahab and health minister Jim Reiter took place Tuesday afternoon.

Shahab noted there are four cases without a clear exposure history -- one in the Regina area, two in Saskatoon, and one in central Saskatchewan. Based on that, Dr. Shahab said they will be making further recommendations today about further improving testing for people who have not travelled.    

At the news conference the Saskatchewan Health Authority has announced it is expanding capacity to meet demand for future phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in the province.

The plan is working from one model that suggests a 30 per cent infection rate of the population. 

If this were to occur in a short period of time, “it would overwhelm our health system,” said Reiter. “That’s why every effort is being made to flatten the curve through social distancing and through self-isolation. This will spread the rate of infection over a longer period of time and our health system will be able to manage.”

“Based on what we already know from jurisdictions across the globe, it is critical that we act immediately to expand acute care capacity in the province of Saskatchewan to mitigate the impact of COVID-19,” said SHA CEO Scott Livingstone at the news conference. 

Livingstone also spoke of the modelling that SHA is relying on, including the one suggesting a 30 percent infection rate. He emphasized this was a "worst-case scenario."

"it's important to understand worst case modeling does not take into consideration a number of initiatives put in place to limit and lower the curve for us with respect to COVID-19. We are updating this modeling on a regular basis and it's being fed directly to the teams across the SHA planning for reponse to COVID-19 for acute care and followup across the province. Northern, rural and urban regions are all directly involved in the planning," said Livingstone.

Respecting their plans for expanded capacity, the SHA plans include: creation of dedicated spaces for COVID-19 patients within facilities; creation of COVID-19 designated hospitals in Saskatoon, Regina and other areas of the province where required; and creation of additional community based acute care capacity where required with field hospitals in venues such as school gyms, community centres, rinks, and so on.

Last week Mayor Ryan Bater had told the News-Optimist that the city of North Battleford has offered some of their currently closed city facilities to SHA for use in the pandemic response.

The province also announced that a provincial Emergency Operations Centre has been established, as well as Integrated Health Incident Command Centres for each of the SHA service areas Saskatoon, Regina, Rural and North.

The province is also urging residents to “abide by the restrictions, guidelines and orders enacted by the Government of Saskatchewan, and help our province slow the rate of transmission of this virus,” said SHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw in a statement.  “The success of preventive measures will have a direct impact on health system demand for hospital care.  The actions of the public will help save lives and ensure our health system is there for when you need it, regardless of the circumstance.”

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