Sask. COVID-19 modelling shows nearly 67% of hospital admissions require ICU care within 24 hours

Newly-released modelling shows that the majority of patients with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan are being admitted to ICU within 24 hours of showing up at the hospital.

Dr. Saqib Shahab presented the modelling on Thursday during a provincial emergency operations centre (PEOC) briefing.

The modelling shows that from Nov. 7 to Nov. 13, 66.7 per cent of COVID admissions to the ICU were within 24 hours of hospital admission.

Government of Saskatchewan. Government of Saskatchewan

“People are showing up late with severe illness and so (it is) important to stay home and get tested at any earliest sign of symptoms that may be COVID or maybe another respiratory illness,” Shahab said.

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Saskatchewan Health Authority chief of emergency operations Derek Miller added that about half of patients admitted to hospital test positive for COVID-19 there, opposed to coming in already having a diagnosis.

“So very important for people to continue to access care when they need it,” Miller said.

He also encouraged residents to get tested if they are feeling unwell.

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Epidemiologist Dr. Cory Neudorf said the main factor sending patients to ICU sooner is people showing up to the hospital at a more advanced stage of illness.

Neudorf added there’s a number of things that could be driving this.

“Part of it can be reluctance for people to go for testing, perhaps,” Neudorf said, also pointing to the statistic that 50 per cent of COVID-19 patients are testing positive at the hospital.

“They weren’t even necessarily aware that they had COVID or that that’s what’s causing their symptoms. So that can be because of people either refusing to go for testing, not being aware they should be going for testing, or how they can go about doing that or just being reluctant,” Neudorf said.

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“That’s a symptom in my mind of us still not doing enough testing again. Testing rates have dropped. Test positivity has been dropping, but it’s still too high.”

“This is just another marker of the fact that there’s a lot more COVID out there than we’re finding out about through testing right now,” Neudorf added.

Read more: Are all fatalities counted as Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 death toll climbs?

He said another potential reason for patients needing ICU care sooner is that they have underlying health conditions or are older, though the modelling did not provide an age breakdown.

Modelling also showed that daily hospital admissions have decreased by 29 per cent from two weeks ago, and ICU admissions by 41 per cent.

Among the western provinces, Saskatchewan remains first for hospitalizations and ICU census per 100,000.

Neudorf said residents need to reduce their trips and gathering sizes, and especially try to keep gatherings limited to vaccinated people or people who have tested negative for COVID-19.

He added it’s very important to keep mask mandates and proof of vaccination policies in place throughout the holiday season if we want to avoid a fifth wave.

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Modelling presented Thursday shows a number of different scenarios for the province, all anticipating some form of a bump up of cases in January.

“The size of that bump is determined more by number one, people’s behaviour. The modelling also suggested continuing to be careful about gathering restrictions, so this is our best case scenario,” he said.

Read more: Health Canada to approve Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11 on Friday: sources

Neudorf said immunity wanes to some extent after five to six months, and the majority of the population was immunized five to six months ago.

“If that waning is enough to allow a lot more people to get COVID, then we’ll see that larger scenario play out come January (and) February unless a booster program gets announced for the general population,” Neudorf said.

If there is enough immunity to fight off the virus, then we can expect to see lower level increases of cases in the new year, Neudorf explained.

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