COVID-19: Hospitalizations hit record high as Sask. promotes vaccines, drugs

It was the result of a sixth wave of infections that arrived before the province could recover from the fifth.

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Saskatchewan is opening up access to another COVID-19 drug as a resurgence of the virus continues to increase pressure on exhausted hospital services.

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The province reported an all-time high of 417 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of noon Wednesday, the result of a sixth wave of infections that came as the province barely had a break from its predecessor.

The one-time count comes after months of medical units in Saskatoon and Regina constantly strained by overcapacity, forcing tired staff to take extra shifts to treat their patients. In rare cases, the resulting backlog of patients in emergency departments has resulted in overflow of patient care in waiting rooms.

There were 22 new deaths reported, bringing the known death toll from the pandemic to 1,295 since March 2020.

The vaccine protects against hospitalization, death

The Saskatchewan government has indicated no intention of reimposing health orders like masking to combat rising case numbers. But he urged people to get a third “booster” dose of the vaccine to ward off the worst effects of the virus.

The province released data Thursday showing that between mid-February and April, people who received three doses of the vaccine were seven times less likely to die from COVID-19 than those who were not vaccinated. They were also five times less likely to be hospitalized and nine times less likely to be admitted to intensive care.

People who received two doses of the vaccine also fared much better than their unvaccinated counterparts in terms of the severity of their cases, although by lower margins than those who received a booster.

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But only about half of Saskatchewan adults have received a third dose, a number that has declined to budge significantly in recent months. Of the more than 10,000 injections given during the week of April 10-16, about 80% were fourth doses to people who recently became eligible for the injections.

Only around 1,500 people received a booster and even fewer received their first dose. Saskatchewan continues to have the second lowest vaccination rate among Canadian provinces.

Province introduces new drugs after monoclonal antibodies removed

The province also announced it would roll out antiviral treatment for more patients after another treatment was quietly halted.

The province will begin offering remdesivir, previously only available in hospitals, through outpatient clinics starting this week.

Treatment will only be offered to a small subset of high-risk patients who have a positive PCR test and are in the early days of their illness. This list includes people aged 70 and over as well as all unvaccinated adults.

Saskatchewan previously used similar clinics to offer sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody of which it requested thousands of doses last year as an early intervention for COVID-19. But use of the drug was recently discontinued after it was found to be less effective against a new iteration of the Omicron variant.

The province says it has provided 258 patients with prescriptions for Paxlovid, an oral antiviral that can significantly reduce the risk of severe COVID-19. The drug is currently only available to a subset of patients, including those aged 55 and older who are unvaccinated.

  1. A research technician prepares sewage samples at the University of Saskatchewan's sewage testing facility which will then be analyzed to better understand how COVID-19 could spread in Saskatoon and other regions of Saskatchewan.  Photo taken in Saskatoon on Thursday September 30, 2021.

    Viral levels of COVID-19 set new record in Saskatoon: sewage study

  2. Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Saqib Shahab

    Provinces see rise in COVID hospitalizations, driven by unvaccinated

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