Alberta has acted as if the pandemic is over. Now that’s an uplifting tale for Canada

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This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly summary of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you have not yet subscribed, you can do so by clicking here.


The COVID-19 situation in Alberta has turned from bad to worse – providing a cautionary tale for the rest of Canada of how a series of bad policy decisions, low vaccination rates and a failure to act quickly is a recipe for a desaster.

Unlike Ontario, which has three times the population but is it is going much better in the fourth wave after keep many public health restrictions in place, Alberta Resisted vaccines passports, mask warrants lifted and even planned to to give up test, trace and isolate protocols before rolling back as cases increased.

Frankly speaking, Prime Minister Jason Kenney “best summer ever“was a failure.

“The end of this terrible time is only two weeks away,” Kenney said sadly on June 18. “We finally have the upper hand on this virus and can safely open our province. “

Fast forward to today and Alberta has the highest infection rate in the country, almost four times the national average, and Albertans are die from COVID-19 at nearly three times the rate from anywhere else in Canada – matched only by Saskatchewan.

While there is no recovery button on Alberta’s fourth wave fed by the delta, there are lessons – especially for the other Prairie provinces that experts fear may not be far behind. .

Staff members work in an intensive care unit at an Alberta hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Albertans are dying from COVID-19 at nearly three times the rate anywhere else in Canada. (Alberta Health Services)

Alberta’s ‘Serious Misstep’ Leads to Devastating 4th Wave

Dr Ilan Schwartz, physician and assistant professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said the Government of Alberta “has completely abdicated its responsibility” to ensure the health and well-being of people. citizens of the fourth wave.

“Alberta has been reckless in dropping all restrictions and declaring the pandemic over. Jason Kenney sadly stated that we were in the post-pandemic era, that COVID was no longer a risk and essentially threw caution to the wind – it was a serious misstep, ”he said.

“But what made it so much worse was the inability to respond to the data that has shown a growing number of cases.”

Kenney eventually accepted medical aid from the federal government and Newfoundland and Labrador Thursday after reject calls for stricter measures days before, and the Canadian Armed Forces and the Red Cross are send medical personnel to ease the burden on hospitals.


“Our health care system has completely collapsed,” said Schwartz. “It’s not just that we’re on the verge of collapse, I think it’s misleading at this point – we’ve collapsed completely.”

Schwartz says hospitals in Alberta are currently unable to offer life-saving surgeries or safe emergency care to those in desperate need and some are constantly running to more than 100 percent intensive care capacity, which makes it a “completely dysfunctional health system”.

“People may think they are vaccinated, so they don’t have to worry about it. But the point is, if we can’t provide safe resuscitation care, period, then everyone else. is in danger, ”he said.

“Every time people get on a tractor or in a car and take the freeway – there has always been a risk associated with that – but now there is no more safety net.”


Kenney announced the Alberta government’s first vaccination mandate on Thursday, ordering all officials be vaccinated by November 30. But there is an option for regular testing instead, and the province has not implemented new public health restrictions.

Schwartz says the next few weeks could be some of the most difficult Alberta has faced in the pandemic – as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise as the healthcare system falters under pressure from a relentless increase in COVID-19 patients.

“As a healthcare worker it’s completely demoralizing and we feel like we are completely on our own,” he said. “We’re just completely abandoned.”

A staff member works in an intensive care unit at an Alberta hospital during the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Wednesday, 1,100 people were being treated for COVID in hospital, including 263 in intensive care beds. (AHS)

Saskatchewan could be “a few weeks from the peak”

The situation is becoming equally dire in neighboring Saskatchewan, and infectious disease experts say the increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths is largely fueled by unvaccinated pockets on the Prairies.

“The short answer here is that we are almost certainly in Saskatchewan on the same really, really bad and steep upward trajectory as that of Alberta,” said Dr. Alexander Wong, infectious disease physician at Regina General Hospital and professor. aggregate of infectious diseases. at the University of Saskatchewan.

“Worst case scenario: I think we’re still a few weeks away from the peak, which would pretty much guarantee an unsustainable need for an intensive care triage environment – very, very similar to what Alberta does now. ”

According to Wong, among the Prairie provinces, Manitoba has one key difference: it has created a vaccination certificate in June, months before the other provinces, which pushed his vaccination rate up.

Alberta resisted the introduction of a vaccine passport system until at the end of last month, but instead tried to encourage vaccination by offer unvaccinated residents $ 100 and enter a million dollar raffle to get the shot. Both had little impact on vaccination.

“It did not increase vaccination, but it also cost us time when there could have been fewer new cases due to unvaccinated people frequenting indoor public spaces and infecting other people,” he said. Schwartz said.

Saskatchewan only unveiled a vaccine passport this week, but also authorized a negative test for entry into non-essential businesses, at the same time, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Saqib Shahab said the province was moving towards a “fall and winter of misery. “

Manitoba threatened by unvaccinated bags

Jason Kindrachuk, assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba and holder of a Canada Research Chair in Emerging Viruses, says that although Manitoba has a slightly higher vaccination rate than other provinces, there are marked differences between its populations in urban and rural areas which threaten to worsen their fourth wave.

“We have a very, very disparate use of vaccines in the south compared to most of the rest of the province,” he said. “In Manitoba, we have three-quarters of our population in one city… and vaccination rates in Winnipeg have increased rapidly.

But Kindrachuk says the threat of a further surge in COVID-19 levels lies in unvaccinated populations in areas of southern Manitoba which are driving the number of transmissions to record levels – with one city in particular having a rate of vaccination of only 24 percent.

“We watched Alberta, we watched Saskatchewan, we’re in a better place… but what if it really starts rolling south?” he said. “So the message for everyone is that the pandemic is not over.”

Manitoba adopts new rules for unvaccinated people from Tuesday in a bid to avoid an increase in cases and additional strain on the health system, including restrictions on indoor gatherings and capacity limits for weddings and places of worship .

Experts say the next few weeks could be some of the toughest Alberta has seen during the pandemic, with intensive care units stretched beyond even typical peak capacity. (AHS)

Wong says the message from policymakers and public health officials in the Prairies throughout the pandemic has been a message of “individual responsibility” when it comes to following directions, getting tested or getting tested. get vaccinated.

“Now the narrative takes the blame, anger and frustration away from society, frankly, from policy makers and from unvaccinated people,” Wong said. In his view, the “blame shift” may have further increased reluctance to the vaccine.

“Even when the whole healthcare system literally collapses, you just won’t get any buy-in at the societal level to really care.”

Unlike Manitoba, Wong says Saskatchewan and Alberta will likely pay a “heavy human price” that will be “painful” in the weeks to come, which he considers inevitable even if the government makes the unlikely decision to impose a another lockdown, or if vaccination rates climb.

WATCH | Alberta, Saskatchewan. Health systems are “shattered” by the wave of the 4th wave, according to doctors:

Health systems in Alberta and Saskatchewan ‘shattered’ by COVID outbreak, doctors say

Edmonton emergency room doctor Dr Aisha Mirza and Saskatoon ICU and intensive care doctor Dr Hassan Masri discuss how hospitals and healthcare professionals in provinces are struggling amid a fourth wave of COVID- 19. 16:41

“It’s not an unvaccinated pandemic, it affects absolutely everyone – it’s everyone whose surgeries are canceled, and who won’t have access to urgent surgeries if they have an accident, or if their appendix bursts or if they have an aneurysm, ”said Schwartz.

“And if there is ever the kind of political calculation that is needed to really change course, to prevent these lives from being lost – I’m starting to lose hope.”



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