TORONTO – Saskatchewan has been battered by a fourth wave of COVID-19, grappling with a surge in cases and deaths and a health care system on the verge of being overwhelmed – a cautionary tale whose beginnings can be traced back to It’s the summer when public health measures took off, according to one expert.

- Advertisement -

The situation in Saskatchewan has been bad for the past few months.

There have been more than 73,000 cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan since the start of the pandemic, and about a fifth of those cases occurred within the past 28 days.

advertisement

The province’s COVID-19 death rate has exceeded the national death rate more than three times the national death rate since last month, and currently has the highest provincial death rate for a fourth wave in the country, with Alberta in second place.

On Tuesday, the number of COVID-19 patients in ICU in Saskatchewan Officially exceeded the normal capacity of the province.

- Advertisement -

About 78 percent of the new cases reported on Tuesday were in people who had not been vaccinated, and nearly all new infections were in people under the age of 30.

  • Newsletter sign-up: Get the COVID-19 brief sent to your inbox

About 340 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in Saskatchewan, of whom 75 percent are not fully vaccinated. The province has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

The current seven-day average for new daily cases in Saskatchewan is 465, or about 38.6 new cases per 100,000 people. Saskatchewan’s population is only around 1.17 million, meaning that this rate of cases would be on par with Ontario reporting more than 5,600 cases per day, compared to Ontario’s average of 500 daily cases.

So how did the province get here?

According to Dr. Nazeem Muhajrin, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan’s current plight can be traced to three main points: the delta variant; the province’s low vaccination rate; and, importantly, the handling of public health measures by the government.

“Our public health restrictions disappeared or were lifted almost overnight on July 11,” he told Granthshala.ca in a phone interview. “Other provinces also lifted restrictions, but they did it slowly, they spread it over several weeks, in fact, or even over a month, for example, in B.C. while in Saskatchewan we basically imposed restrictions. Were gone almost overnight with almost no restrictions.”

While Saskatchewan had three steps in hand for his plan to end the restrictions, he said the province ran into it.

“July 11 came and we wanted 70 per cent of our eligible population with at least one dose. And we didn’t quite get there, we were just […] Less than 70 per cent under one per cent, but still, the government decided ‘quite close’ to 70 per cent, we are going to lift all the restrictions.”

Masks were no longer required in public places. There was no gathering limit, and restaurants and bars did not require a seating limit. Life was back to normal – or, at least, that was the plan.

During the summer, Muhajjarin explained that we didn’t fully understand the Delta version as we understand it now.

“The studies did not produce data to show how contagious this particular delta variant is, and almost to the point that it presents itself almost like a different virus,” he explained.

“It is much more permeable than even alpha” [variant], which was twice permeable than […] wild version. “

In August, with no protective measures in place, a “cascade sequence” of rising cases, hospitalizations and deaths began, Muhajrein said, leaving the province to scramble for a solution.

On September 10, the government made Self isolation mandatory again For those who had tested positive for COVID-19. A week later, an indoor Masking mandate re-announced, followed by a proof-of-vaccination scheme for government employees along with restaurants, movie theaters and indoor venues.

“What is missing is any restriction for indoor gathering[s],” Muhazarin said.

Despite calls by the provinces to limit the size of gatherings, Premier Scott Moe has resisted, Denying Saskatoon Mayor’s Recent Request for additional public health measures.

In a statement emailed to Granthshala News last week, the government of Saskatchewan said they would not limit the size of the gathering.

“The majority of new cases and hospitalizations are unvaccinated residents and those who have not been vaccinated should be vaccinated,” the statement said.

In Saskatchewan, only 79.1 percent of the eligible population (aged 12 and older) have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the lowest rate in Canada and more than five percent behind Alberta, the province with the next lowest rate.

Muhajjarin explained that the population of Saskatchewan is largely spread out in smaller rural areas and towns, and there is a divide in terms of vaccination in rural communities versus urban communities.

People in rural communities may feel that the lack of population density in their area will protect them anyway, or may have less trust in the government, he said, potentially contributing to the province’s low vaccination rate.

But focusing only on vaccination is not going to solve Saskatchewan’s problem, Muhajrin said.

“Delta had a lot of vulnerable people to be infected because of the low vaccination rates and the absolute reliance on vaccines as a way out of this pandemic,” he explained.

“Vaccines are very important, but vaccines need to be supplemented with other measures, public health measures.”

One of the big concerns about Saskatchewan right now is the toll on the health care system.

On Tuesday, Saskatchewan announced that they have 80 COVID-19 patients in ICUs, meaning that with COVID-19 patients alone, they exceeded the province’s baseline capacity of 79 beds. Had taken.

The province is counting on increased capacity – in September, fearing the system would be overwhelmed, the province moved to increase provincial ICU capacity to 175 by adding more beds.

So far only 58 new beds have been added, taking the capacity to 137. As of Wednesday, there are 79 COVID-19 patients in the ICU. And while 79 COVID-19 patients in the ICU may not seem like a lot, it is important to remember that the ICU is for patients needing critical care for any reason, including traumatic injury, heart failure, Including stroke, brain aneurysm and other conditions. .

As of Tuesday afternoon, a total of 114 people were in the ICU in Saskatchewan, including COVID-19 patients and other patients.

“We’re just on the verge of triage, the medical people have to decide who to live and who not to live, because they have capacity issues,” Muhajerin said.

“We can make extra beds, like a field hospital, etcetera, but we need to find people to staff them. We need specific people, and they are hard to find.”

During this fourth wave, the Muhajareen reported that leadership on the part of the government had been largely absent.

In the summer, weeks went by without any public briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the province, even as cases began to rise in August.

“I think what’s really interesting is the lack of visibility and absence of our legislators and our caucus, you know, who is ruling this province,” Muhajrin said.

In late September, Saskatchewan’s NDP, the official opposition in the province, called on the provincial government to resume weekly COVID-19 briefings, Prime Minister and Health Minister Paul Merriman calls for reduction in availability “An unbelievable abdication of duty.”

“You would think that in a fourth wave like this, […] Chief [the country] With our mortality rate and hospitals pushed to the brink, the health minister will appear every single day of the week, every day,” Muhajreen said.

“But he is nowhere to be seen.”

He believes that for Saskatchewan to get out of the fourth wave, the government needs to step up.

“The government can and will have to do more,” Muhajreen said. “I mean, the government needs to reintroduce, especially in public places and indoor places to introduce some limits for gathering as well.”

He said proof-of-vaccination should be extended to those working in schools where there are children who cannot receive the vaccine because of their age, and rapid testing should be used more.

When we only look at the numbers, we lose sight of the main issue here, he said: the human toll of COVID-19.

“We just had Thanksgiving weekend, the one day a year where our families get together and give thanks for what they have,” Muhajrin said. “We had seven, eight people, […] Death of COVID over Thanksgiving weekend. And they, if not for COVID, if it had gone differently, those people […] Perhaps sitting at a table, having a meal with loved ones.

“We are only quoting numbers. We are not thinking that these are real people.”