Doctors urge caution as COVID-19 cases in Regina overtake other major Canadian cities
The number of COVID-19 cases in Regina is among the highest per capita of major Canadian cities.
Dr Alexander Wong, an infectious disease specialist in Regina, says there is no reason to panic, but people should continue to follow public health advice on how to contain the spread.
As of Monday, Regina had 180 active cases per 100,000 people – about double the number of Saskatoon’s per capita. Regina’s per capita figures are significantly higher than those of cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton and Winnipeg.
“I don’t necessarily think things are out of control. I think our colleagues in public health have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on,” Wong said. “But I can understand how some people might look at the raw data and think there might be some issues.”
Wong said several factors could be contributing to the high rates, including outbreaks related to homes and workplaces, and that contact tracers in the province were catching secondary cases.
Are there any variations in play?
Variants were cited as a possible reason for the increase in numbers. Wong said there was no clear evidence to show that variants are common in the province, but some cases have been discovered, so it’s a reasonable assumption that they exist.
“Sure, there is a community transmission of worrying variants happening right now. We just don’t know what the prevalence of this looks like. Right now, it’s pure speculation,” he said. “Regardless of the prevalence of variants that are circulating or not, it does not change the basic elements for which we all have to take responsibility.”
Wong said people should continue to reduce contact with others, wear masks and get tested if they show symptoms to contain the spread.
Consequences of slow restrictions in play: doctor
Dr. Cory Neudorf, professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan and a public health physician, agreed. He said Regina’s high per capita figures were not surprising. In fact, the number of cases is still relatively high in several parts of the province.
Saskatchewan has the highest per capita case rate of any province.
“What we’re seeing in Saskatoon and Regina is really just a continuing expression of the fact that our restrictions just haven’t been as severe as those in other provinces,” said Neudorf.
The province’s reluctance to implement strong restrictions quickly is part of the reason the province remains under a heavy public health order, he said.
The province experienced a high and sustained level of cases that increased throughout the fall and peaked in January. Now, the decline from the peak has been slower than in other regions.
Neudorf said people need to act with caution because even though the numbers are declining in parts of the province, they are slowly declining. He said community spread is still prevalent in homes (where a family member brings it home and makes the rest of the family sick) as well as in the workplace.
Health officials must keep an aggressive eye on the variants, step up testing to control the spread of the community and be prepared to tighten restrictions if the province is to see a significant drop in the number, he said.
Doctors urge people to stay vigilant
Neudorf said the virus’s reproduction number remains in a risk zone between 0.8 and 1 – a range that is considered a growth phase. He said that number should ideally be less than 0.7 with the new variants.
Wong said the “new normal” people were talking about was still a long way off.
“Stay the beep at home. The pandemic is going to continue indefinitely. It is not going to go away,” Dr Wong said. “There will be new variants, endless strains of the virus and possibly a continued need to vaccinate.”
Wong and Neudorf both said it is important that people are prepared for what is to come and that things will not get back to normal until most of the general population is vaccinated.
“It’s like we’re balancing on a knife edge right now,” Dr Neudorf said, adding that a drop in the numbers will allow the immunization program to work. “It doesn’t take much to suddenly see a spike in cases, and if that happens, we could very easily see a third wave from March and April, especially if these new variations take hold. . “
Premier teases easing restrictions
Prime Minister Scott Moe told a press conference on Tuesday that he had heard from people calling for an easing of public health restrictions, especially around household gatherings.
“We are about to make and finalize these decisions,” Moe said.
Moe said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Saqib Shahab wanted hospitalizations and the number of cases to stabilize for “a few more days.”
“If that happens, we should have more to say about domestic restrictions, possibly early next week,” Moe said.