Worst case scenario: Saskatchewan officials preparing for thousands to die

REGINA — The spread of COVID-19 could exceed the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s capacity for acute services and lead to a death toll in the thousands, says an internal document.

Some estimates for infections as well as preparations on how to deal with the spread of the virus are outlined in a planning presentation by the authority dated last week and obtained by The Canadian Press.

It says that with a 30 per cent infection rate, about 240,000 people could be expected to remain at home, while 15,000 would require hospitalization in intensive care units.

A fatality rate of between three to five per cent — or between 9,000 and 15,000 people — could be expected, it reads.

Saskatchewan has so far reported 72 cases of COVID-19. Six new cases were announced Tuesday, with the chief medical health officer saying four cases show community transmission.

The health authority said its plan’s 30 per cent infection figure comes from modelling by other jurisdictions and the presentation itself is based on a worst case scenario of the virus spreading rapidly with no action to stop it.

The projections will be updated, officials said Tuesday, pointing to current restrictions the province has taken, such as prohibiting large gatherings.

Health Minister Jim Reiter echoed public health officials, saying an infection rate of 30 per cent over a short period of time would overwhelm the health-care system.

“That’s why every effort is being made to flatten the curve … through social distancing and through self-isolation,” he told a news conference.

The internal document underscores that “time is of the essence” and “preparations must begin immediately.”

It says all scenarios show the pandemic having a huge impact on the province’s health-care system, and the health authority’s strategy is to “contain, delay and mitigate.”

“Demand for acute services will exceed existing capacity for hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators, as well as creating a major burden on other acute services, supports, HR, supplies, and equipment,” it reads.

Coronavirus

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