Public health officials have introduced a benchmark to evaluate how COVID-19 is spreading in Saskatchewan as the province prepares to relax some public health restrictions.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority also says data shows residents are complying with current measures.
The important marker officials say they’ll be using is the average number of people that one person with COVID-19 is likely to infect. Right now, it is 0.7.
Dr. Jenny Basran, senior medical information officer with the health authority, says the figure signals whether a virus is still growing or declining in a community.
If the number stays below one, it’s declining.
“If we start inching closer to (one), then it’s a warning signal to say, ‘Lets pause for a moment and look at what potentially could be contributing to that and whether or not adjustments need to be made,’ ” Basran told a news conference Tuesday.
The measure, also used in Germany and Singapore, will guide decision-making when it comes to public health rules and will be posted online weekly for the public to access.
The province is preparing to lift restrictions on personal care services, medical clinics and retail businesses beginning in May.
“The goal of having the … number is to be able to be aware and adjust as we need, depending on both how the loosening of the restrictions work as well as how everyone responds to them,” Basran said.
Saskatchewan reported one new case of COVID-19 in the Regina region on Tuesday, bringing the total to 366 cases in the province. So far, there have been five deaths linked to the illness.
The province also released its latest modelling numbers Tuesday. It said under the worst-case scenario, Saskatchewan could see more than 250,000 cases of COVID-19 and about 3,000 deaths.
The health authority said the projections are to help facilities and staff with pandemic planning.
“If we don’t stay flat, then we know we’re going to have to back off what we’re doing with respect to providing more services, and we’ll redirect those resources to COVID,” said CEO Scott Livingstone.
He said more restrictions could be introduced.
“This isn’t gone. It’s not going away any time soon. And it’s really in the hands of the public and the other folks working in the system around how well we do.”
Premier Scott Moe said last week that Saskatchewan has essentially flattened the curve and, if the infection rate stays low, it will act on its plan to reopen some businesses and services.
The plan was outlined as an area in the north is dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19.
La Loche, a remote Dene village 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, had 29 confirmed infections as of Monday. Most of them have been linked to travel from northern Alberta.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2020
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press