Positive cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan have been steadily increasing since the holiday season.

On Thursday, the province announced 334 new cases of COVID-19, the fourth highest single-day total since the pandemic began.

Dr. Alyson Kelvin, a scientist at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology as well as VIDO-InterVac in Saskatoon, says it’s not surprising to see numbers climb - but it doesn’t necessarily mean people weren’t following provincial guidelines.

“If a person lived by themselves, they were allowed to to meet with another small family. This could have also increased possible opportunities for transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and increase of COVID-19 cases,” she said.

Vaccine rollouts in Canada may also be leading to a more relaxed attitude when it comes to guidelines, but Kelvin says a limited supply of vaccines means people need to continue physical distancing, wearing masks, and following public health guidelines.

She says even after receiving a vaccine, infections may still be able to spread. A vaccinated person infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus is protected from the disease the virus causes – COVID-19 – but can still transmit the virus to other people.

“There's some data that may indicate that vaccination does reduce transmission, but we're waiting for more concrete data on this with some rigorous clinical trials.”

The timeline from the first cases of COVID-19 and the rollout of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines has caused some to question how safe they are, but Kelvin says work on the foundation of these vaccines has been going on for years.

“This vaccine didn't come out of nowhere, it has been in preparation for, or at least the backbone of this vaccine has been in preparation for several years,” she said.

“Without any of that work that we did on the first SARS virus, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), as well as influenza virus and the development of vaccines for those viral threats, we wouldn't have been able to get to this point. So for me as a scientist and a vaccinologist, it's quite rewarding to see decades of work come into use now.”