COVID-19 steady and influenza season over according to provincial 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 and the influenza season is drawing to a close.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases continue at approximately 200 cases per week, with a test positivity rate of 6.5 per cent test. The reporting period ran from Feb. 12-25.

COVID-19 test positivity in Saskatchewan sat at 6.6 per cent in the most recent week, an increase from 6.1 per cent from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4. Cases are largely in the 20 to 64 years old age bracket (42 per cent) and 65+ age groups (43 per cent).

There were 338 reported COVID-19 cases in the two week running from Feb. 12-25. Patients ages 60 and older accounted for 149 cases, while patients ages 20 to 59 accounted for 145 cases. There were 44 cases in patients under 20.

Wastewater levels fluctuate by provincial area. Prince Albert reported an increase from moderate to high. Regina’s wastewater viral load remained the same at moderate-high. Saskatoon remained at moderate level. The trajectory is decreasing in North Battleford, Swift Current and Moose Jaw in the current week compared to the previous week.

Test positivity for COVID-19 in the North Central region was 11.8 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 12 – 25, there have been seven COVID-19 deaths, all 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 56 hospital admissions and six ICU admissions.

ICU admissions have increased from 9 to 11 for the most recent two weeks. The proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients remained similar (from 5.7 per cent to 5.4 per cent this week compared to the previous week).

BQ.1.1 and its sublineages (denoted as BQ.1.1*) are the most commonly detected variants (49.3 per cent of current reporting period), followed by XBB.1.5* (23.3 per cent) and BQ.1 (17.1 per cent).

The province reported seven 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 per cent of their population up-to-date for COVID-19 vaccines.

Only 20 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.

On the influenza side cases are decreasing in the province. Influenza cases were decreasing until the past week when type B activity emerged, typically seen in the latter part of an influenza season. Type B influenza generally has a mild clinical manifestation.

Influenza test positivity dropped from 2.1 per cent in the first week of January to 0.3 per cent in mid-February but increased again this week to 1.0 per cent with the emergence of type B activity but remains below the 2.0 per cent threshold for an influenza season.

Influenza occurred mainly among working-aged people 20 to 64 years (5 of 8 cases) in the past week.

No influenza hospitalizations or ICU admissions reported during the week of Feb. 12 to 25.

No deaths due to Influenza were 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. No school absenteeism data is available for the most recent surveillance week as schools were not in session in that time period. School-illness absenteeism increased slightly over the last four reporting weeks. The data indicated 10.3 per cent of Saskatchewan students were absent in the week of Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, which increased to 11.3 per cent in the week of Feb. 12 to 18.

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.