COVID-19: Saskatchewan medical health officer says risk level low, booster rates need to go up

Saskatchewan health officials reported a lower amount of COVID-19 PCR confirmed cases last week compared to the prior week.

In the week of May 29 to June 4, there were 285 new cases confirmed by laboratory testing. In the week prior, there were 364 new cases.

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The province also reported 10 new deaths from COVID-19.

As of June 8, there were 187 people in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 118 patients had an incidental infection.

There were 10 patients with COVID-19 in the ICU as of Wednesday.

Saskatchewan Health Authority interim senior medical health officer Dr. Cory Neudorf said it can be tough to interpret the government’s weekly data with testing restricted to certain groups.

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Since February 2022, PCR testing through SHA was limited to priority populations such as hospital patients, care home residents and health-care or essential workers among others.

“Seeing the number of positives slowly coming down and the per cent positivity slowly coming down does give you some reassurance that the wave is slowly receding as well.”

Along with cases stabilizing, Neudorf noted that wastewater analysis has also stabilized at a lower level in Saskatoon.

“It’s still persisting out there, which shows that there’s still a fair bit of COVID circulating in the community, just not at the peak levels it was at before.”

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Neudorf thinks that’s due to two reasons.

One being that blood studies show that close to 40 per cent of the population has likely had COVID-19 in the last few months.

“This wave has really ripped through the population in a big way,” Neudorf said.

Neudorf said this combined with relatively low hospitalization and ICU numbers means that COVID-19 immunizations have been doing their work.

He added those who do end up in the hospital, ICU or dying from COVID-19 disproportionately are those who are unvaccinated.

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Neudorf said the risk level could be characterized as low to low-moderate but cautioned it’s not zero.

“We can’t pretend that we’re out of the pandemic. It is still there despite what a lot of us would wish. But there isn’t the same need for the same level of precaution as we saw in the wintertime.”

Neudorf said larger events are safer when held outdoors and some people may want to consider wearing a mask for certain events.

He said gathering outside is the safest option.

“We expect the trajectory, if people abide by that, to keep going down over the summertime and hopefully down to close to normal sort of range over the summer,” Neudorf said.

He added cases will likely pick up again in the fall.

Neudorf said the best case scenario is there aren’t further changes to the virus and the current Omicron strain, then a bit of a resurgence would be expected when school resumes in the fall.

He said the worst case scenario is between now and summer there is another new variant that could be more transmissible and able to evade immunity.

According to last week’s data, of the population 12 and older, 49.2 per cent have received their booster.

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“The fact that only 50 per cent have taken up the booster is one of the main drivers as to why this wave has been as large as it has and has lasted as long as it has,” Neudorf said.

Neudorf said if the unvaccinated population is mixing with the partially vaccinated population, “Omicron has shown it can evade partial immunization quite easily, almost as good as being unimmunized.”

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Though Neudorf added those who are partially immunized still have “a lot of protection” against serious disease.

On top of that, those who have their booster are better able to fight off infection, Neudorf said.

“Bottom line is we still need everybody to get immunized, whatever dose it is that you’re eligible for. Please go out and get it because it’s going to protect you.”

Neudorf added getting a booster will also prevent this current wave from lasting longer and take pressure off the hospital.

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