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‘Stay the course’: Sask. physicians hoping province maintains COVID-19 measures to ease potential 5th wave

Saskatchewan’s physicians are encouraging the province to “stay the course” with its current public health measures, as a way to reduce the severity of a fifth wave of COVID-19.

“All the signs and the signals across Canada are looking like, even in Saskatchewan, we’re probably going to experience either a fifth wave or a wavelet of some sort,” Dr. Johnmark Opondo, SHA’s medical health officer and offensive chief for public health, said Thursday.

Doctors are suggesting that the current health measures should be left in place until the spring, based on slides from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) physician town hall on Thursday night.

“I think we learned from experience, suddenly lifting all public health orders simultaneously at once can really have a spring back effect, and even the victories we’ve gained can be quickly lost,” Opondo said.

The physicians suggest there are three main factors that would likely contribute to a fifth wave in Saskatchewan: waning immunity from vaccines, population behaviour including masking and reduced social mixing; and the emergence of the recently discovered Omicron variant.

Opondo said Saskatchewan is in a phase of “enhanced surveillance” when it comes to Omicron, but the variant has yet to be detected in the province.

The province had the sixth highest average daily new case rate per 100,000 population among Canadian provinces, at 43 as of Thursday, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Saskatchewan has the second highest COVID-19 death rate among provinces only behind Manitoba, at an average 2.5 per 100,000 population over the past two weeks.

The SHA has observed a decline in daily case rate in most areas, except for Yorkton, Estevan, Saskatoon, Edam, Kerrobert and Caronport. Virus transmission continues to be seen primarily in households and social gatherings.

“COVID and the Delta wave, things seem to be declining,” Opondo said. “We still do have hotspots in various parts of the province.”

Heading into the holidays, doctors are urging families to consider the health measure already in place.

“In terms of using proof of vaccination as a way to support yourself and your loved ones. Even rapid antigen tests which are largely available in many places, many outlets in the community, use them to really support yourself and your family before you get into family groups,” Opondo said.

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