COVID-19 remains steady in Saskatchewan according to report

Graphic courtesy HFCM Communicatie, via Wikimedia This is a representation of what the Covid-19 virus would look like under a powerful microscope.

According to the province’s bi-weekly respiratory illness surveillance report, COVID-19 has remained steady in Saskatchewan.

The number of positive lab tests for COVID-19 increased from 202 in the week Feb 12- Feb 18 to 237 in the most recent week. Test positivity increased from 6.5 per cent to 8.1 per cent. The reporting period was from Feb. 26 to March 11.

COVID-19 test positivity was 8.1 per cent in the most recent week, an increase from 6.5% in the Feb. 12 to Feb. 18 reporting week. Cases are largely in the 20 to 64 years (39 per cent) and 65+ (45 per cent) age groups.

For the two weeks of Feb. 26 to March 11, 2023, there were 390 COVID-19 cases (48 were 0 to 19 years; 135 were 20 to 59 years and 207 were 60 years and older).

Regina wastewater viral load increased from moderate to moderate-high and the rest of Saskatchewan’s viral load remained as moderate. The trajectory is decreasing in Saskatoon and North Battleford in the current week compared to the previous week.

Test positivity for COVID-19 in the North Central region was 6.7 per cent. For influenza test positivity was 0.0 per cent.

These are only lab-confirmed cases and not rapid antigen test-confirmed cases.

The province warns that rates should be interpreted with caution because they do not include cases detected by home rapid-antigen test kits.

In the past two weeks, Feb. 26 to March 11, there have been 14 deaths among COVID-19 cases, one in the zero to 19 years age-group, two in the 20 to 59 years age group and 11 in the 60 years or older group

It is not known how many deaths occurred in North Central over this period.

The report shows there are currently 74 hospital admissions and four ICU admissions.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased from 126 for the previous two weeks, to 140 for the most recent two weeks. ICU admissions increased from 11 in the previous two weeks, to 15 in the most recent two weeks. The proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients slightly increased in recent two weeks to 5.9 per cent, compared to the previous two weeks at 5.4 per cent and 5.7 per cent, respectively.

XBB.1.5 and its sublineages (denoted as XBB.1.5*) are the most commonly detected variants (41.2 per cent of current reporting period), followed by BQ.1.1* (38.7 per cent) and BQ.1* (9.1 per cent).

The province reported six new outbreaks in Long Term Care, care homes and personal care homes. Locations of the outbreaks are no longer reported.

Of those aged five years and older, 20 per cent have received their latest booster dose in the last six months. With the exception of Regina, all areas of the province have less than 50% of their population up-to-date for COVID-19 vaccines. Only 21 per cent of individuals aged 12+ years have received a bivalent booster dose. Less than half of individuals aged 50+ have had more than one booster dose (47 per cent).

On the influenza side cases are decreasing in the province. Influenza cases were decreasing until type B activity emerged, typically seen in the latter part of an influenza season. Type B influenza generally has a mild clinical manifestation. Influenza activity was low in the past two weeks with sporadic cases distributed in communities throughout the province.

Influenza test positivity fluctuated between 0.3 per cent and 1.0 per cent over the past four weeks. The emergence of type B activity is responsible for this increase. Influenza cases affected both preschool (3 cases) and working-aged people 20-64 years (3 cases) equally in the past week. No influenza outbreaks in high-risk settings were reported in the past month. There were two influenza hospitalizations and no ICU admissions reported during the weeks of February 26 to March 11, 2023.

One death due to Influenza was reported in the past six weeks.

The report also included the school absenteeism data. School absenteeism is the proportion of scheduled children who were absent from class due to illness. School-illness absenteeism remained stable over the last four reporting weeks. The data indicated that 11.3 per cent of Saskatchewan students were absent due to illness in the week of Feb 12 – 18, and 11.2 per cent in the most recent surveillance week. The most common cause was the common cold.

As of Oct. 13, the Ministry of Health launched the community respiratory illness surveillance program (CRISP) report to integrate COVID-19 surveillance and reporting with provincial respiratory illness and surveillance reporting, including influenza.

The report standardizes the epidemiological information required for respiratory illness surveillance and risk management and will be issued bi-weekly during respiratory illness season.