Leaked SHA document shows worst-case scenario outcome of coronavirus in Sask.

Provincial hospitals could soon be overwhelmed with patients suffering severe effects of COVID-19, according to preliminary projections outlined in a leaked Saskatchewan Health Authority document. The document includes a death toll of 15,000 in a worst-case scenario.

“In all modelling scenarios, the COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on acute care health service delivery across the province,” the document said.

Titled COVID-19 Planning: Strategy for Continuity of Health Services and Surge Capacity, the plan summarizes a range of impacts the virus could have on the province’s health care system.

“This was a draft document based on early modelling and worst-case scenarios,” SHA responded to Global News via email. “Modelling is still being refined to ensure we have the best information about the additional capacity that will be needed to effectively manage COVID-19.”

The document also states, “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.”

To meet the demand, SHA listed a number of measures required including increasing acute care capacity while maintaining non-pandemic related services – all while protecting the physical and mental health of frontline workers.

The internal projections estimate about 300,000 people — about 30 per cent of the population — will be infected by COVID-19. Of that, 15,000 people are expected to require ICU.

Currently, Saskatchewan has 109 ICU beds province-wide. The document also notes that “early social distancing will delay and lessen the peak of the outbreak.”

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A three-stage operational plan was outlined in the document.

The province is currently implementing stage one, which includes cancelling elective procedures, postponing non-urgent surgery and closing patient clinics.

Stage two calls for an increase in capacity for COVID-19 care which includes repurposing space in existing facilities and possibly turning community centers into temporary care spaces.

Stage three is ongoing and focuses on isolation and containing COVID-19 through continued screening and testing.

SHA also reported that Saskatoon would see an “exponential growth” of COVID-19 and will need to increase capacity to provide ventilatory support to “nearly 500-600 patients daily” at peak demand.

The leaked document says Saskatoon’s death rate will be consistent with other parts of the world.

The document refers to projections that appear to be based on situation reports from March 19 and March 20, 2020.

Responding to the leaked report, Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili said the government should better communicate the risks, so the public is well educated about what they’re facing.

“I think the government should be sharing all of the information they have,” Meili said. “If they have modelling of what’s likely to happen under different scenarios that’s something the public should see, and we should have all of that information clearly in front of us.”

COVID-19 has already started to affect hospitals in some regions of the country. In Quebec, officials said on Tuesday that there were already 67 patients in hospital, including 31 in intensive care. 

Some physicians in Toronto have also been warning on social media that they are seeing signs in their emergency rooms that the number of infected patients is likely higher than the official numbers released by provinces.

SHA is commenting on the report on Tuesday afternoon.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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India sets 21-day ‘total lockdown’ in fight against coronavirus pandemic

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a “total lockdown” in the country of 1.3 billion people during a televised address Tuesday night, the most extensive stay-at-home order yet in the world’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The 21-day lockdown was set to begin at midnight.

“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi said, adding that if the county failed to manage the next 21 days, it would be set back by 21 years.

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Fed's 'bazooka' soothes dollar funding squeeze

LONDON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve’s efforts to shield the economy from the effects of the coronavirus have — for now – slowed a scramble for dollars that threatened to clog funding markets.

The dollar had gained almost 9% in 11 days in the rush for cash, but it fell on Tuesday, at one point to its weakest since March 19 =USD. Measures of demand for dollars signaled that many businesses and banks felt they had enough for now.

The Fed announced on Monday it would buy bonds in unlimited numbers and backstop direct loans to companies, the latest in a series of policy steps taken over the past 10 days to calm markets and support the economy.

It actions have included 150 basis points of interest rate cuts, targeted schemes for short-term money markets and extended dollar swap lines. Those actions marked intervention by the central bank beyond financial markets, where it has so far concentrated its firepower, into the real economy.

The three-month euro-dollar swap spread EURCBS3M=ICAP, a measure of the premium European borrowers are willing to pay for access to dollars, fell to 8 basis points, down from 14.5 bps on Monday, before the Fed’s announcement.

The spread had risen as high as 86 bps last week, but a series of measures, including unprecedented joint action to ensure a plentiful supply of dollars for central banks, eased the rush for the U.S. currency.

Swap spreads in other currencies, such as sterling GBPCBS3M=ICAP, tightened, although the dollar-yen spread JPYCBS3M=ICAP remained relatively wide, with Japanese investors still prepared to pay a sizeable premium for access to dollars.

“(The yen swap spread) still suggests some stress in funding foreign assets by Japanese investors,” JPMorgan analysts told clients.

They also noted a relatively elevated 40 bps spread on the one-year FRA-OIS — a gauge of the risks banks attach to lending to each other — though this too is below last week’s levels of more than 50 bps USDF-O0X12=R.

The dollar, measured against a basket of currencies, fell 0.5% =USD. The euro EUR=EBS gained 0.8% to $1.0812, up from three-year lows of $1.0636 at the start of the week.

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As buildings empty, Downtown Business Association asks Edmonton police for more patrols

The Downtown Business Association is calling for the Edmonton Police Service to do more patrols in the city’s pedway system now that things have gotten very quiet with workers vacating office towers and opting to work at home.

O’Donnell said he expects that things will get even more quiet if the Alberta government follows the lead of Quebec and Ontario, where non-essential businesses have been ordered to shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch below: (From March 23, 2020) While social distancing and staying home continues to be the message for Albertans, businesses are trying to navigate the new normal. As Lisa MacGregor reports, some business owners are in a tough spot when it comes to staying open or not.

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U.S. industries scramble for exemptions as state shutdown orders grow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As several more U.S. states moved to impose stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the coronavirus, industries from steelmakers to auto dealerships were scrambling for exemptions that would allow them to remain open.

A patchwork of state and local authorities are imposing business closures. While many manufacturing firms were declared “essential” and were being allowed to stay open, some suppliers were not.

The stay-at-home orders are designed to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus, which has infected over 40,000 Americans in recent weeks and killed over 500.

The manufacturing-heavy states of Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan imposed stay-at-home orders on Monday, joining states such as New York, California, Illinois, Delaware and Maryland.

“What we do now will slow this invader,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said Sunday. “It will slow this invader so our healthcare system … will have time to treat casualties.”

The National Association of Manufacturers has urged states to declare all manufacturing facilities and supply chains as part of the “essential infrastructure” and “essential businesses,” allowing them to stay open under guidance here provided by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), part of the Department of Homeland Security.

As the virus halts physical commerce, keeping operations open provides companies a better chance of staying in business than waiting for a government handout, said Gary Hufbauer, a non-resident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“Cash flow and survival are the key words here,” said Hufbauer. “As the shutdown continues, more and more firms will seek to be designated ‘essential.’”

Several letters to state and local officials from industry groups did not address how worker safety would be maintained for firms granted exemptions.

According to the CISA guidance, working remotely is encouraged, but when that is not possible, the agency recommends following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for social distancing, and off-setting shift hours to separate staff.

“These steps can preserve the workforce and allow operations to continue,” the agency said.

Industry may get an opening as President Donald Trump voiced a desire on Monday to avoid a complete shutdown of the U.S. economy, Hufbauer said.

Trump said he was considering ways to restart the economy in the coming weeks and wanted to avoid the pandemic becoming “a long-lasting financial problem”

Pennsylvania imposed a stay-at-home order in seven counties, mainly in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas on Monday evening. Steel mills are allowed to operate, but not some critical suppliers such as metal fabricators and producers of limestone used in blast furnaces.

“Without the continued operation of these businesses, steel mills will not be able to continue their physical operations in Pennsylvania and elsewhere,” Tom Gibson, president of the American Iron And Steel Institute, wrote in a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

As of late Monday afternoon, those metal fabricators were not on a list here of the types of businesses that could stay open from Wolf’s office.

“We are issuing these orders because Pennsylvanians’ health and safety remains our highest priority,” Wolf said in a statement.

Pennlive.com reported here that 10,000 businesses in Pennsylvania were seeking exemptions from the order.

The Aluminum Association called on local state and federal agencies to ensure that industry operations and employees are designated as “essential” and exempted from any “shelter in place” orders.

Groups representing the ports, chemical industry and hazardous waste transport also urged officials to keep them open as essential businesses

Auto dealerships, which repair vehicles and perform warranty and recall work, also should stay open, to “ensure that our nation’s motor vehicle fleet remains as safe and operational as possible” two automotive trade groups said in a letter here to Trump.

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South Africa's coronavirus cases reach 554, country braces for lockdown

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases rose to 554 on Tuesday from 402 a day earlier, as businesses raced to make plans for a nationwide lockdown from midnight on Thursday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the 21-day lockdown in an address to the nation on Monday, saying Africa’s most advanced economy needed to escalate its response to curb the spread of the outbreak.

South Africa has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, and public health experts are worried that the virus could overwhelm the health system if infection rates rise steeply.

Health officials are working to expand the country’s coronavirus testing capacity and develop a plan to ensure there are enough intensive care beds with respirators.

“The numbers, we mustn’t be shocked when we see them increase. But these measures if we all work together must turn the curve around,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told a televised news conference, saying South Africa could reach an inflection point in its infection curve two or three weeks after its lockdown restrictions enter into force.

Two patients are in intensive care, but there have been no deaths from coronavirus in the country, Mkhize said.

Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said the government had taken steps to ensure the lockdown would not affect food security.

“There is no need to embark on panic-buying, the country has enough food supplies,” Didiza said, adding the government would be monitoring food retailers to ensure sellers do not inflate prices.

Aviation company Comair, a franchise partner of British Airways (BA), said it was suspending all flights it operates for BA and services on the kulula.com low-cost airline from Thursday until April 19.

Tsogo Sun Gaming said its casinos and bingo sites would be closed by Wednesday.

A bargaining council for the clothing manufacturing industry said it had reached a collective agreement for guaranteed pay for 80,000 workers for six weeks.

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