USask professor says public, government must consider positives of extending some COVID-19 measures

The provincial government’s data on the severity of Saskatchewan COVID-19 cases looks promising.

Health officials and political leaders have asked the public to receive their first shot to reduce the likelihood of getting sick or dying.

The health minister and chief medical health officer touted the province’s vaccine uptake and what it has done to protect people.

Click to play video: '‘Overwhelming majority’ of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan in May weren’t vaccinated: Merriman' ‘Overwhelming majority’ of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan in May weren’t vaccinated: Merriman

‘Overwhelming majority’ of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan in May weren’t vaccinated: Merriman

As of June 9, about 65 per cent of people 12 and older have received at least one shot.

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The figures for May show vaccinations are protecting people from serious outcomes.

Dr. Saqib Shahab presented Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 numbers for last month during a June 8 press conference.

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatchewan reopening won’t be easy for everyone, mental health advocate says

May saw just short of 5,296 new cases, but only eight per cent (427) of them came from people who had reached a three-week period after receiving their first dose.

About 191 people were admitted to hospital because of the disease, with less than 20 per cent (36) of those being vaccinated for more than three weeks.

Of the 46 intensive care unit (ICU) patients, six had received the full benefit of the first shot.

But while the number of people who have received their first dose continues to rise, there is concern about loosened measures for those with underlying health conditions.

There were 28 COVID-19 deaths in May and seven people had been vaccinated for more than three weeks when they died.

Read more: Saskatchewan lowers age to 55+ for second COVID-19 vaccine shots

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The slide Dr. Shahab used in the presentation said all of those seven were older than 60 and almost all of them had other medical concerns.

A University of Saskatchewan public health expert believes the province’s reopen plan could do more to accommodate people with weaker immune systems.

“This is why at a federal level and internationally, more people are trying to include other elements in their reopen strategy,” Dr. Cory Neudorf added, saying the province could take other considerations when setting the threshold for phase three of its reopening roadmap.

Click to play video: 'Merriman says Saskatchewan ‘not looking at’ COVID-19 vaccine incentive programs' Merriman says Saskatchewan ‘not looking at’ COVID-19 vaccine incentive programs

Merriman says Saskatchewan ‘not looking at’ COVID-19 vaccine incentive programs

Some of those elements include the number of new cases, hospitalizations and how many second doses are in arms.

Dr. Shahab noted that as the sample size becomes smaller, like the amount of deaths in the month compared to the number of cases, the proportion could be distorted.

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Dr. Neudorf stated that the public should consider what loosened restrictions mean for those with weaker immune or respiratory systems.

“Until we get the entire population fully protected and bring those case numbers down dramatically, we’re still putting other members of the community at risk,” he said.

Read more: Proceed with caution: Saskatchewan epidemiologist on recent decline of new COVID-19 cases

Global News reached out to the province for a statement, but didn’t receive a response before publication.

However, the province has previously stated people who aren’t as comfortable with looser restrictions can still choose to follow current public health measures like wearing a mask.

The Saskatchewan government said the earliest phase three, which sees the removal of all public health measures, could start is July 11 and is dependent on 70 per cent of people older than 12 receiving their first shot.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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