Saskatchewan wastewater data affirms spiking COVID counts: USask scientist

As COVID-19 numbers spike in Saskatchewan, an ecotoxicologist believes actual cases are being under reported due to testing and contact tracing changes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML

As COVID-19 numbers spike in Saskatchewan the latest wastewater data report for Saskatoon paints a similarly bleak picture. The latest wastewater data has the highest virus load recorded to date.

Saskatchewan reported 1,069 new cases on Monday, the third-highest daily total in the province since the start of the pandemic with 44.6 per cent of the new cases in people aged 20 to 39.

Read more: What Sask. employees should know about PCR testing rights, workers’ comp. claims

Active cases reached a new high of 7,750, topping the previous high of 7,418 reported on Sunday.

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 case numbers also reached a new high on Monday of 871, 72.3 cases per 100,000 people.

John Giesy says cases in the province may be higher than what the government is reporting.

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An ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan, he believes this may be due to the lack of PCR follow-up testing and contact tracing.

“It would indicate that there about twice as many people ill than are showing up in the provincial numbers,” Giesy told Global News.

He said the latest waste water data for Saskatoon is the highest virus load level recorded to date.

“The numbers are high. What that means to us is that there are a number of infected people in the population [with the] virus,” Giesy said.
“If you look at … the doubling rate, it’s about two days for the population, which is in line with what [is reported] elsewhere.”
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The number of people in hospital for COVID-19 remained steady at 119, with 11 people in intensive care.

Provincial officials said 44.5 per cent of hospital patients were not fully vaccinated.

According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority Dashboard, 59 of the 108 inpatients are due to COVID-19-related illness, 36 are incidental, asymptomatic infections, and 13 have not yet been determined.

Eight ICU patients are due to COVID-19-related illnesses and two are incidental, asymptomatic infections. No information was provided on the 11th ICU patient.

Read more: Saskatchewan changes up hospitalization reporting, includes ‘incidental’ cases

Giesy believes hospitalizations remaining stable could be due to a number of factors, including vaccination rates.

“We have a pretty high vaccination rate here in Canada. Even here in our province, which is lagging some of the other provinces, it’s still pretty high compared to other places in the world,” he said.

“We have quite a few people that have already been infected and have some natural immunity, and the [Omicron variant] seems to cause less severe illness.”
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Giesy said the current hospitalization rate is good news.

“That’s what the politicians are … saying, ‘OK, if it doesn’t cause severe illness, it’s more like the flu, it’s more like a cold. Just soldier on.

“But it is controversial. I do have colleagues saying, ‘No, we need to put a brake on it because we’re overburdening the medical system.’”

Read more: Saskatchewan nurses union warns of ‘onslaught’ of COVID-19 hospitalizations as outbreaks declared

The province reported no new deaths in Monday’s update.

Since the start of the pandemic, Saskatchewan has reported 92,940 total cases and 84,229 recovered cases.

Giesy foresees the current spike in cases continuing for the next few weeks, as the Omicron variant is very transmissible.

“I’m expecting this will peak out within about two weeks because things will go really fast,” he said.

“So, whoever is going to get it are probably going to get it very soon, and then things will start to stamp out.”


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