Experts call for action to address Omicron ahead of Thursday’s COVID update with Saskatchewan. officials

Experts are calling for action against the spread of Omicron ahead of a COVID-19 government update scheduled for Thursday morning.

Saskatchewan reported 293 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 1,645. There are now 66 confirmed cases of Omicron and 956 suspected cases of Omicron in the province.

“The numbers are not at all a surprise. It was expected and that is what we are seeing,” said Nazeem Muhajarine, professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine.

“We could be at the start of exponential growth.”

The provincial government is expected to make a public health announcement on Thursday. A bulletin from the Prime Minister’s Office said Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman will hold an update at 11 a.m. “to announce changes related to testing and isolation, and provide an update. update on key indicators relating to the number of cases, including hospitalizations ”.

Muhajarine said recent provincial and federal data shows a curve with a steep increase, with the seven-day average increasing exponentially.

He said it is too early to predict whether Saskatchewan will see surges like those in Ontario and Quebec, but “Saskatchewan is going in that direction because it doesn’t take much for Omicron to pick up the slack.”

Under-reported cases

“We are probably only looking at the tip of the Omicron iceberg,” said Dennis Kendel, health policy adviser. Saskatoon morning.

“There have only been 992 tests done in the previous 24 hours, a test positivity rate of 16.3%. When test positivity for PCR tests is this high, we know we are missing a lot of case.”

Dr Dennis Kendel said that while the reported symptoms of Omicron have been mild so far, recent data from the United States suggests an increase in pediatric admissions. (Trent Peppler / CBC)

Kendel said that while the provincial government deserves credit for making rapid and free antigen testing available to the public, few people follow up on a positive result that involves performing a formal PCR test.

“Especially people in rural communities, they just don’t drive to get tested. They are very positive but we don’t count them because they don’t get PCR test,” he said.

Muhajarine agrees that Saskatchewan, like other provinces, is undoubtedly underreporting cases, but the degree is uncertain – and this is also partly due to the lack of PCR testing to confirm positive rapid test results.

“Our testing regime is not normal. Our PCR testing regime is compromised, just like in Ontario and Quebec,” he said.

“In Saskatchewan, maybe not at this point, but we are approaching that point where our PCR testing capability is called into question and compromised.”

The government’s laissez-faire, watch and wait approach must change

Muhajarine said Saskatchewan is the only province to have taken “the most passive and negligent approach at any time during the pandemic,” even beating Alberta, in his opinion.

He said Prime Minister Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman, at times of dire need for health action, have taken a “watch and wait” approach.

Kendel echoes with that thought.

“When you wait too long, there are preventable deaths and a lot of preventable human suffering,” he said.

“I am very unhappy with the passive approach our government is taking right now. I don’t expect anything to happen tomorrow.”

Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, said Saskatchewan is past the optimal time to introduce measures such as collection restrictions and capacity limits. (University of Saskatchewan)

Muhajarine says the critical point for taking action may have already passed.

“There is an optimal time to introduce measures such as collection of restrictions and capacity limits during a pandemic wave. We have passed that optimal time in Saskatchewan,” said Muhajarine.

Muhajarine said these measures should have been introduced when the COVID count was low. He said telltale signs of the coming storm were there when other provinces and jurisdictions around the world reported their first cases of Omicron.

“Moe, who is from rural Saskatchewan and farmed, should know how to protect your herd when a tornado is heading straight for you,” he said. “Instead, they took a pretty laissez-faire approach, watch and wait. “

Need restrictions because the risk persists

While Muhajarine is hoping the government could announce measures limiting the size of gatherings, Kendel believes otherwise.

“There is a certain likelihood that our prime minister will actually consider the CDC’s policy of reducing isolation time. If that happens, I will be really disappointed,” Kendel said.

Kendel said that while the reported symptoms of Omicron have been mild so far, recent data from the United States suggests a 30% increase in pediatric admissions.

6:42Make sense of the more than 800 suspected / confirmed cases of Omicron reported in the province

Leisha Grebinski chats with Dr. Dennis Kendel, health policy consultant and former CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, about the rise of Omicron and the lack of restrictions. 6:42

“We’re unlikely to escape that here. We’re going to see a significant increase in admissions, especially pediatric admissions,” Kendel said.

“We have very clear visibility criteria for closing a highway in a blizzard. That’s what I would like to see our government do, but they remain silent.”

Muhajarine agrees that since the infection rate for the variant is high, “it will be more than hospital systems can handle when the fourth wave comes out.”

“One of the biggest things I hope for is the collection restrictions and capacity limits as well as some consideration for children and teachers,” Muhajarine said.

“I hope the government will work with school boards to keep students and teachers safe and introduce e-learning for a few weeks.”

Muhajarine advises residents to stick to their own household bubbles and, if necessary, another fully vaccinated household. He suggests receiving booster shots to increase the immune response.

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