Why Saskatoon's COVID-19 trend could be cause for cautious optimism

With the University of Saskatchewan research team monitoring the city's wastewater for signs of COVID-19 noting an 85 per cent drop in its latest update, experts in the city say the trend is cause for cautious optimism.

“All the people that I've known that had it are recovered and back to work, so I think that was reflected in our numbers,” said John Giesy, one of the researchers.

Giesy believes the findings are a signal that the city has passed the peak of the sixth wave of COVID-19.

“It's springtime, and so that's generally when things trend down, and now we've got a lot of people with immunity.”

Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist based at the university, agrees.

“Omicron has infected all of the susceptible people who it could infect, and maybe it is sort of on its way out,” he said.

“I have to say that very, very cautiously because it's still high, Omicron, and there's so many people are getting COVID-19 and it's all Omicron.”

Muhajarine says the decrease also coincides with the rollout of second booster doses for people aged 50 and over.

“A lot of people are lining up and a lot of people are making appointments and bookings and getting their second booster dose,” he said.

“It'd be nice to see another week, another two weeks of continuing decrease of this viral load viral material in the wastewater and that will give us more confidence that we are really seeing that trend.”

In its most recent weekly Covid-19 report, the province says other respiratory viruses have higher test positivity in Saskatchewan than COVID-19, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) with 14 per cent test positivity, influenza at 12 per cent, and enterorhinovirus at 11 per cent.

Muhajarine says he would expect to see other respiratory viruses present in the winter rather than spring and summer.

Also concerning to Muhajarine is long COVID.

“Some large studies have found up to 30 to 33 per cent of people who are initially infected still have persistent symptoms and signs, persistent organ effect, effects in the brain, gut, lung, heart, all these organ systems, effected long after that initial infection,” he said.

“We don't know everything we need to know about long COVID either, so I really think that people who are hesitant into getting a booster dose, first or second, you really should be getting that because that's actually how you keep long COVID at bay.”