In a bid to offer more transparency in their process, and following a similar move by Ontario and other provinces, the Saskatchewan Government held a WebEx video conference yesterday with the media to discuss their current modelling data and their various scenarios for how the COVID-19 pandemic may ultimately evolve in the province.

The results of that modelling show very clearly that while the province may still be hard hit by the virus, current intervention methods such as social distancing and mandatory self-isolation are having a positive impact.

Saskatchewan's Senior Medical Information Officer, Dr. Jenny Basran, stresses however that the kind of dynamic modelling that the province is using is not predictive and is only meant to help assess the impact over time using various "what if" scenarios; continually changing as new information becomes available.

In other words, they're useful but hypothetical.

"Again, this is not predicting what will happen in Saskatchewan. This is importing those numbers in that situation to Saskatchewan. It is too early for us to know the exact scenario that may (occur) in Saskatchewan and will really depend on how well we are all complying with the Chief Medical Health Officer's interventions."

The key to dynamic modelling of the virus lies in what's called the Basic Reproductive Constant (BRC); defined as "the average number of people one person with COVID-19 would infect".

Based on the province's current level of countermeasures like physical distancing, enforced self-isolation and business restrictions, for example, they model three possible scenarios:

  • A high range utilizing early Canadian Estimates of a BRC of 4.0, meaning that each infected person then infects four others;
  • A middle range figure of 2.6, using figures from a region in Italy that, like Saskatchewan, had more time to prepare;
  • A lower range using the Wuhan estimate of 2.4, which is the imperial model that is largely used due to Wuhan being the first area hit by the virus and therefore has the most information available.

Using those three scenarios and the province's current state of readiness, the Saskatchewan Health Authority might see a total of between 153,000 and 408,800 total cases of COVID-19 in the province and total deaths between 3,075 and 8,370.

At its peak, between 390-4,265 may need acute hospital care simultaneously, while 90 to 95 percent of those may need ventilators.

Again, the SHA stresses that these are not predictions, merely hypothetical potential numbers that can aid them in preparing their responses as far as the number of acute care beds, staffing and emergency response planning.

Dr. Julie Kryzanowski, Saskatchewan's senior medical health officer, says that they are learning from the experience of other provinces and around the world, and will continually refine their modelling scenarios as more homegrown Saskatchewan information becomes available.

"My take away is that the models underscore the importance of aggressive and sustained public health measures and population health approaches that can help us flatten the curve."

Swift Current Online will have a deep dive into the SHA's battle plans in the coming days.