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University of Saskatchewan professor raises questions over untraceable coronavirus cases

University of Saskatchewan professor raises questions over untraceable coronavirus cases
WATCH: A University of Saskatchewan biomedical professor says the province needs to dedicate more resources to contact tracing.

While COVID-19 infections have remained low compared to Saskatchewan Health Authority’s initial modelling data, the province has seen a large number of cases without a known source.

A University of Saskatchewan biomedical assistant professor believes it could be a potentially tricky situation with schools reopening this week.

“We can sort of think about this as like an uncontrolled fire burning throughout the city or throughout the province as opposed to a controlled one where we at least know where to apply our resources,” Dr. Kyle Anderson said.

He created a chart looking at the province’s COVID-19 infection figures starting on April 16.

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At that point, nine per cent of Saskatchewan’s cases were untraceable

As months passed, that figure grew. 

As of this week, nearly 30 per cent of all cases are untraceable.

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Anderson believes more resources need to be dedicated to contact tracing.

Tech talk with expert Marc Saltzman on a potential contact tracing app
Tech talk with expert Marc Saltzman on a potential contact tracing app

The provincial chief medical health officer said the data needs to be broken down on a weekly basis. 

“The cumulative case numbers are one thing, but the last one or two weeks, what informs us what we need to do over the next one or two weeks – I think that is the cycle we need to get used to,” Dr. Saqib Shahab told reporters.

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Over the seven days from Sept. 3 to 10, there were 42 new cases in the province with 12 of them being untraceable.

Read more: Canada launches COVID-19 tracking app — but only in Ontario

The province is considering using the federal government’s COVID-19 alert app which uses Bluetooth for contact tracing and notifies people through their mobile phones.

Anderson added offering more information to contact tracers would make it easier for public health officials.

“If we can all supply this to our contact tracers, then they’re going to be more effectively be able to figure out who we’ve been in contact with and get those people tested. And get those people isolated if they have any symptoms,” he said.

The chief medical health officer added there is nothing consistent that he’s concerned about for cases with unknown sources.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.