The experiences of Manitoba and Saskatchewan have often been compared throughout the COVID-19 epidemic, and for good reason.
They have similar demographics, statistics and geography.
At the beginning of the first wave of the epidemic, Manitoba reported a fraction of the cases that appeared in its western neighbors. Saskatchewan had an increase in the number of highly infectious corona virus strains long before Manitoba.
But earlier this week the death toll from the virus in Manitoba exceeded 1,000, with Saskatchewan more than half of it. As of Friday, there were 1002 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba, up from 515 in Saskatchewan.
What is the absolute difference in the number of deaths?
Najeem Muhajarin, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, said different experiences in long-term care facilities in each province are a key factor.
“Like Quebec, I think Manitoba has experienced the worst effects of COVID-19 in long-term and personal care homes,” he said.
It ranks second among the provinces of Manitoba, behind Quebec, in terms of individual COVID-19-related deaths.
Nearly half of all deaths in Manitoba are linked to long-term care facilities. As stated in it National Institute on Aging At Ryerson University, as of May 13, Manitoba had 486 deaths in nursing homes, out of 2,536 cases in 87 different facilities.
Saskatchewan has associated 117 deaths with care homes, compared to 651 cases in 116 facilities.
Muhajirin said people living in long-term care homes are the most vulnerable to an epidemic.
“They are old, and sometimes they are maintained in a very close place,” he said. “And the immune system, you know, is not as strong as the younger ones. And they are more vulnerable to death, with worse outcome.”
Another important factor – and related to the amount of transaction occurring in private care homes – is the difference in how the population of the two provinces is distributed.
With more than half of Manitoba’s population living within the city of Winnipeg, Saskatchewan’s population is highly dispersed. The combined population of the two major cities, Regina and Saskatoon, is only 43 percent of the province’s population.
As of Friday, Winnipeg had recorded 25,424 and 698 deaths in 44,189 confirmed cases in Manitoba. Regina and Saskatoon have a total of 21,522 cases and 251 deaths.
Highly concentrated population leads to higher rates of social dispersal, Muhajarin said.
“When the social prevalence is very high, the incidence of COVID-19 in cities is very high, which affects all parts of the city, including some of the most vulnerable people, people who can live in long-term care, private-care homes,” he said.
Jason Kintrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba, said understanding the differences in outcomes between Manitoba and Saskatchewan must go beyond surface similarity.
“We have to look beyond the total number of people living in each province, but even more variables, socio-economic statistics … of course the differences in where those people are and which population was severely affected during each wave,” he said. .
Another difference is that corona virus strains – such as the B117 variant – are widespread throughout the provinces.
The B117 variant hit Saskatchewan, and especially Regina, much earlier than Manitoba. But as it has become a dominant strain in Manitoba, it has not spread far beyond the capital of Saskatchewan, Kintrachuk said.
“Since you have a city like Winnipeg and you have a lot of people in an area, do you have a better chance of spreading?” I don’t know, “he said.
The Liberals of Manitoba on Friday called on the provincial government to conduct a study to understand why the death toll is so different between the two provinces.
“Clearly, Manitoba has something to learn from Saskatchewan, and it would be good for us to learn it quickly,” said Manitoba Liberal leader Dagald Lamond in a news release.
Kindrachuk says a study comparing the two provinces is useful.
“We need to look at it beyond the idea of pointing fingers,” he said. “Of course, we know that long-term care facilities and personal care homes are unusually severely affected … but what about the other spreads we see?”
Understanding which population is most severely affected will help Manitoba better prepare for the next epidemic, Kintrachuk said.