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New coronavirus modelling shows improved outlook for Saskatchewan

SHA revises COVID-19 modelling for ‘improved outlook’
WATCH: The Saskatchewan Health Authority's revises its COVID-19 modelling plans for fewer cases.

New coronavirus pandemic modelling data for the province offers “cautious optimism,” the Saskatchewan Health Authority reported Tuesday.

The new modelling says one person infected with the novel coronavirus will spread the virus to an average of 0.7 people.

Officials said the low number is indicative of a strong compliance in Saskatchewan with public health measures.

READ MORE: Warm weather in Saskatchewan doesn’t mean easing up on social distancing

The SHA said it has revised its planning in case of a major COVID-19 surge, using a scenario with a spread rate of 3.12 people for each infected person

Nearly of 255,000 people could become infected, resulting in 3,050 deaths in its revised planning scenario, the SHA said in its report.

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As of Tuesday, there were 366 total cases in Saskatchewan, with five deaths.

Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan health official shares province’s developing offensive strategy for COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan health official shares province’s developing offensive strategy for COVID-19

At the peak of its revised planning scenario, 1,736 hospital beds would be required, 1,000 less than originally forecast, along with 412 ICU beds, 400 fewer than in the original plan.

The total number of ventilators that would be required is 403, which health officials said is within its current capacity of 486 ventilators.

“We are adjusting our planning to align with these new figures,” said Derek Miller, lead of the health authority’s emergency operations centre.

“It will ensure we remain prepared for a major surge. It’s based on Saskatchewan data and information and we believe it is more reflective of a potential scenario.”

READ MORE: A timeline of the novel coronavirus in Saskatchewan

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The SHA said interventions taken to date show that the province is in a better position to deal with COVID-19 and slow the spread of the virus.

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“This new data brings with it cautious optimism,” said SHA CEO Scott Livingstone.

“Thanks to the Saskatchewan people’s efforts and our own robust actions on testing, contact tracing, and other public health measures, we are flattening the curve and helping ensure our health system can manage the surge in demand that may come from COVID-19.”

Livingstone said the updated modelling uses Saskatchewan-specific data and allows the health authority to more accurately plan for different scenarios.

“We have to continue to plan for the worst, while hoping for the best,” Livingstone said.

“As we’ve seen from other jurisdictions, the situation can fluctuate very quickly.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan health official says data modelling not ‘a crystal ball’ but it does help with planning ahead
Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan health official says data modelling not ‘a crystal ball’ but it does help with planning ahead

However, the health authority said the new modelling numbers come with a caution as it can change daily based on behaviours and interventions.

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“Going forward there will be ups and downs in our fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Susan Shaw, the SHA’s chief medical officer.

“That is why it is so critical that we be guided by the data and be willing to adapt as we learn more about COVID-19 and how the virus is behaving in the Saskatchewan context.”

READ MORE: Dalhousie University food security expert warns of COVID-19 effects on agriculture industry

Updating the modelling numbers provides guidance when making public health decisions and allows the province to make real-time decisions on relaxing or tightening restrictions, the SHA said.

“While we support the Province’s plan for gradually re-opening the province, it is a critical time to remind Saskatchewan residents that this will be a phased process where we still need our citizens to be vigilant and practice the same precautions that have proven effective to date,” Shaw said.

The SHA said planning is underway to resume elective surgeries, diagnostics and community services, although no date for the resumption of those services was announced by the government in its five-phased reopening plan.

Roughly 3,800 surgeries have been delayed or postponed due to the health authority preparing for a possible surge in coronavirus cases.

Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan to use data modelling to inform province when elective procedures could restart
Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan to use data modelling to inform province when elective procedures could restart

Livingstone said it is too soon to have a defined timeframe for when those services will resume.

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“What we’re trying to do now… is use data to help inform where is the best place to open up the system carefully, but also to address the highest needs in our population,” he said.

“The last thing we want to do is start burning through elective surgeries only to have our facilities fill up with people with medical needs that we haven’t met or diagnostic needs that went postponed.”

Health officials said it will be carried out in stages, with each phase triggered by surveillance data on the transmission of the virus in the community.

Factors also being considered by the SHA are the needs of high priority patients, the risk of transmission of the virus, the impact on COVID-19 surge capacity, and the impact personal protective equipment inventory.

 

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