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Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Health experts have warned doctors in Saskatchewan that COVID-19 cases could climb to more than 10,000 by early next month.

The Ministry of Health on Friday released a presentation delivered to physicians at a town-hall meeting the night before about the virus’s current spread and possible trajectory.

Information updated to Nov. 20 indicates that, based on the recent average rise in positive tests, the caseload could hit 10,000 in the first week of December if there is no further intervention.

The province on Friday reported 329 new cases for a total of more than 7,600 infections since the pandemic arrived in March. There were more than 3,200 active cases – more than 1,000 of them in and around Saskatoon.

There were four new deaths of individuals 70 or older, bringing the province’s death toll from the pandemic to 44. Officials said 111 people were in hospital, with 16 of them receiving intensive care.

The data shown to doctors states that as of Monday the number of active cases and hospitalizations had gone up 400 per cent in the last 30 days.

It forecasts that in four to six months, acute care demand for COVID-19 patients could account for half of all available beds and the need for intensive care could be five times total capacity.

“These results should be interpreted with extreme caution and may point to the need to go further with public health restrictions,” Dr. Jenny Basran, senior medical information officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said in a statement.

“The SHA is currently working on updates to further validate this data and incorporate the projected impact of the latest public health measures put in place this week. We expect to be able to share more information by the end of next week.”

The health authority said modelling for the pandemic changes daily, and some of the latest shows “early positive signs” about the impact of a provincewide mask mandate and five-person limit on household gatherings.

Team sports are now banned in the province and capacity limits at public venues such as bingo halls, churches, and wedding and funeral receptions are capped at 30.

Only four people can sit together at a restaurant or bar and large retail stores have had to cut their capacity by half.

The measures are part of the Saskatchewan Party government’s latest effort to reverse the pandemic’s spread without ordering non-essential businesses closed.

Premier Scott Moe’s office also announced Friday that he had tested negative for COVID-19 after eating at a restaurant where he may have been exposed to the virus.

“The premier is fully satisfied with receiving his test result in four days. He feels that a four-day turnaround is very reasonable given that test results are prioritized for symptomatic individuals,” said spokesman Jim Billington, who added that Moe was asymptomatic.

Moe planned to stay isolated at his home in Shellbrook, Sask., until Sunday as per public health advice before returning to Regina for the reopening of the Saskatchewan legislature on Monday.

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