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Health Authority outlines readiness plan to handle potential spread of coronavirus in Sask.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority is preparing for potentially as many as 8,000 COVID-19 related deaths, as the outbreak continues, and have released their plan to handle that situation should it happen
Moe Shahib CP press conference
Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer, right, speaks while Scott Moe, premier of Saskatchewan, looks on at a COVID-19 news update at the Legislative Building in Regina. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has released its data modelling the potential coronavirus spread within the province and shared what the next steps will be to help “flatten the curve” in Saskatchewan.

The SHA’s dynamic modelling data suggests that even in a low-range scenario, Saskatchewan could see 153,000 total cases, which is an estimated 13 per cent of the population, and 3,075 deaths from the novel coronavirus.

These numbers were determined by assuming that one individual infects 2.4 other individuals and the current pandemic response measures in the province, including public restrictions and health care response, remain the same.  

The high-range scenario showed 408,000 total cases, or 34.5 per cent of the population, and 8,370 deaths within the province, if individuals are expected to infect 4 other people and the current pandemic response measures in the province remain the same.

Those numbers are two of three scenarios outlined by the SHA’s modelling, and officials are warning Saskatchewan residents not to look at these numbers as predictions for the future. 

“The strategy that the Saskatchewan Health Authority put forward with the modelling is a set of projections, not predictions but projections so that they can build our healthcare delivery model around these projections,” said Premier Scott Moe during the province’s daily update on April 8.

In a press release, the SHA emphasized that the dynamic modelling scenarios are meant to provide the health authority with “what-if” scenarios to inform the next steps in their pandemic response. 

The SHA has set forth a number of future measures to make sure the health system is prepared to handle the continued outbreak, including an important request to the public. 

Data shows that the current interventions in place are making a difference, said the SHA, and the general public’s adherence to the ongoing isolation measures will be key in managing COVID-19 moving forward.

Continuing to practice physical distancing and diligent hand-washing is very important at this time, and so is abiding by mandates to self-isolate, avoid travel, and follow gathering restrictions.

“No health system in the world can manage this challenge without the sustained help of the general public,” SHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said, in a press release. “Demand will exceed our capacity as a health system if we are not diligent about these measures.”

The SHA has also outlined the measures they will be implementing gradually over the next several weeks. 

Access to the 38 testing centres in the province has been increased, and staff working to trace contact cases has been tripled. 

As of April 5, a slowdown of non-essential services to increase bed availability has left almost half the acute care beds in Saskatchewan available for use in preparation of the expected surge in the pandemic.

The SHA will also be increasing the acute care capacity by 57 per cent over the next several weeks, by creating ield hospitals in Saskatoon and Regina and potentially other locations if needed.

There will also be designated spaces for COVID-19 patients in many facilities, and 20 hospitals within the province have been proactively identified to be designated COVID-19 hospitals if needed. The Dr. F.H. Wigmore Hospital has not been designated as a COVID-19 hospital right now. 

“Our job as a health care system is to provide care for those in need and to be ready for any scenario,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said, in a press release. “We need to continue to escalate our response to ensure we are prepared for the worst-case scenarios and we need the public to help us avoid those scenarios.”

The provincial government has said that lifting the current restrictions is still “weeks away,” and that when that lift does happen, it will happen gradually and slowly.

“Even if we are able to engage in opening up some portions of our economy in some kind of way [in the near future], it will be very different than it was two months ago,” said Moe. 

For now, Saskatchewan residents are to continue following public health and government mandates as instructed — and to be prepared to continue doing so for potentially several more weeks. 

The full report released by the Saskatchewan Health Authority detailing COVID-19 models and the SHA’s plan for future measures can be found here.