Vaccine talk, new modelling numbers highlights of latest COVID-19 news conference

Here is a summary of highlights from today’s news conference in Regina with Minister of Health Paul Merriman and Saskatchewan chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.

In his remarks Merriman addressed what the province is doing in stepping up testing and contact tracing. He said the SHA has been approved to hire 76 additional staff to support provincial labs with 50 already hired. The amount of testing has expanded with test sites in 52 communities across the province. Regina, Saskatoon and Yorkton have drive-through testing with Yorkton and Prince Albert coming soon, and rapid-point testing is being introduced for asymptomatic testing capacity.

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For contact tracing, SHA has increased from 60 trained staff to approximately 400. SHA is also working with the federal government to access federal resources including 30-40 staff from Statistics Canada for contact tracing.

Merriman also spoke of the recent good news from Pfizer and Moderna about their vaccine development. But he also noted production and distribution will take some time. He said the government of Canada has ordered 4 million doses from Pfizer and 2 million from Moderna. Of those Saskatchewan is slated to get 180,000.

“Sask Health and the SHA is working on a plan to distribute the vaccine as swiftly and effectively as possible. The vaccine will be administrated on a priority basis, I expect we will be vaccinating seniors and frontline health care workers first. I look forward to the day when we have most of our province vaccinated. But that’s going to take some time. And until then we need to follow all public health measures guidelines that will help keep us safe and those around us safe.”

Dr. Shahab also provided modeling showing the growth of COVID-19 in the past number of weeks.

Among the highlights of that presentation:

The rate per 100,000 is now third highest in Canada.

The epidemic curve is described as a “sustained increase” in all six regions of the province. “Our risk is the same throughout the province,” said Dr. Shahab.

There have been 229 people hospitalized and among hospitalization, six are ages 0-19, 27 ages 20-39, 74 ages 40-59, 80 ages 60-79 and 42 ages 80-plus. The last two to three weeks, hospitalizations have gone up.

The seven day rolling average of COVID-19 is up to 169 as of Nov. 14, up from 125 on Nov. 11.

Dr. Shahab also noted the importance right now to reduce the number of contacts, stay home as much as possible and “space our activities out.”

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