Today, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) released new data showing that Saskatchewan is in a significantly better position to manage COVID-19 as a result of the interventions taken to date to slow the spread of the virus.
New Saskatchewan specific information shows Saskatchewan’s Basic Reproductive Number for the virus as 3.12. This means the average number of people a single COVID-19 positive person in Saskatchewan would infect, had no interventions been undertaken and everyone was susceptible. With the introduction of public health measures in March and April 2020, the Effective Reproductive Number in Saskatchewan is 0.7 as of April 25. This is the average number of people one person with the virus is likely to infect at the current time, after the effects of the interventions have been factored in. This changes daily as behaviours and interventions change.
“This new data brings with it cautious optimism,” Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said. “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.”
The SHA is using the new Saskatchewan-specific Basic Reproductive Number to adjust its planning scenarios, maintaining its commitment to plan for the worst, while aiming for the best. The Effective Reproductive Number will be used to guide decisions specifically about public health measures. This will help the province to make real-time adjustments to relax or tighten public restrictions, as needed, to help prevent a resurgence of COVID-19, while also balancing the need for a very gradual return to normalcy.
The SHA will release the Effective Reproductive Number weekly to help inform the public on the effect of current interventions or relaxed restrictions in Saskatchewan. Analysis going back to early March indicates that the value of this number has been under one since early April.
The SHA also released updated information on the adjustments it is making to its COVID-19 Readiness Plan as a result of this new data.
Highlights from the offensive portion of the SHA’s COVID-19 Health System Readiness plan include:
- Maximizing testing capacity, accessibility and speed, including ongoing expansion of rapid testing capability across the province and outreach to populations less likely to seek testing;
- Surging contact tracing to stay ahead of demand, including a plan to meet any scenario up to 618 news cases per day in Saskatchewan;
- Helping prevent spread by restricting staff to work in a single facility;
- Contingency planning to use hotels to cohort COVID-19 positive patients who require intermediate care;
- Continuing to expand virtual care options to provide continuity of service while maintaining physical distancing, wherever possible.
The SHA’s defensive strategy portion of the plan focuses on the readiness of our acute care services to meet any potential surge in demand from COVID-19.
Highlights from the adjustments made to this part of the plan include:
- New planning scenario assumptions now estimate needing 1,000 fewer hospital beds, 400 fewer ICU beds and 400 fewer ventilators than previously announced on April 8, 2020;
- Continued preparation for field hospitals in Saskatoon and Regina to enable the SHA to scale up, if needed.
The SHA and Ministry of Health are also developing a plan to resume, in a staged approach, community services, elective surgeries and diagnostics that were impacted by earlier service slowdowns. This will be released in the near future. The elements of this plan will be activated in phases, with each phase triggered by surveillance data on transmission of the virus in the community. Identification of which services will resume will consider factors such as highest priority patient needs, risk of transmission of the virus, impact on COVID-19 surge capacity, impact on inventory of personal protective equipment and other factors.
“Going forward there will be ups and downs in our fight against COVID-19,” Saskatchewan Health Authority Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said. “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. 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.”
Saskatchewan residents can continue to help by taking specific action, including:
- Practicing good hygiene, washing hands regularly and physical distancing (two metres apart wherever possible);
- Stay home, whenever and wherever possible;
- Abide by provincial and local travel, self-isolation, event and gathering restrictions;
- Avoid visiting our hospitals and long-term care facilities, unless there are compassionate reasons for doing so.
Saskatchewan Health Authority’s weekly update on its current COVID-19 Health System Readiness plan can be found online at www.saskatchewan.ca/COVID19.