Measures to control the spread of COVID-19, like limiting social interactions, reducing public gatherings, and wearing a mask, will determine how many people will fall ill in the months ahead suggests new modelling from the Ministry of Health.
“If we don’t follow them we can see an increase in hospitalizations, increases in ICU admissions and other varying scenarios that are always being refined,” chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said.
On Thursday, he presented different scenarios that show new cases could rise by 4,830 to 469,000 by May depending on how the virus is stemmed.
Shahab cautioned the modelling is based on assumptions, but they show a big picture.
“We know the pandemic is going to continue until May, and next year by fall we may be in a better place,” Shahab said.
“But if you all do these simple measures we can bend the curve. That is the message we need to take home. It is really up to all of us.”
Saskatchewan is currently averaging 160 cases a day, which is putting a strain on the health care system, says Shahab.
Should the province’s new measures — which came into effect on Thursday — not work, between 1,600 to 4,100 people could be hospitalized by May. In a worst-case scenario, over 4,800 people could die.
But even if current measures are followed by the majority of the population, thousands of people are likely to get sick in the months ahead.
In the province’s most optimistic scenario, over 4,800 more people will get infected by May and another 34 people will die.
If cases don’t start levelling off, the province will soon average 200 new cases a day, which would translate to 600 to 1,000 cases a day in the following weeks, said the chief medical health officer.
“It’s surprising how individual actions can make an impact, but they need to happen now. All of us need to make a change,” Shahab said.
Despite the grim outlook, the province is relying on compliance to slow the spread of the virus.
Minister of Health Paul Merriman said the province’s measures will have to be tried out for a week or two before further restrictions are implemented on businesses, despite the modelling suggesting it could be too late by then.
Merriman said he puts the emphasis on “could.”
“We have the potential to change this and avoid the worst-case scenario. And I think the people can,” Merriman said.
In the meantime, he says the province is balancing “what our health care system can handle, the economy and jobs, and keeping as many employed as they can.”
Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 modelling scenarios can be found on the government’s website and searching ‘modelling update.’