COVID-19 cases climb on prairies, but Manitoba shows positive signs, experts say – Winnipeg
Manitoba’s western neighbors are seeing an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, but experts say that doesn’t necessarily mean the province is heading in the same direction.
Alberta reported 1,401 new cases on Friday, while Saskatchewan added about a third of its 3,184 active cases over the weekend.
But comparing Manitoba to other prairie provinces isn’t quite apples to apples, according to infectious disease specialist Craig Jenne of the University of Calgary.
“Manitoba has introduced vaccine passport forms, or compulsory vaccination for certain events, again, a bit out of place compared to Alberta. And we saw reactions earlier to things like mask warrants and bylaws, ”Jenne said.
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“All of these pieces together and acting early, before the health care system is overwhelmed, have the potential to significantly reduce or mitigate this fourth wave in the province.”
Jenne points out that the private sector in Manitoba has also been more willing to implement its own health guidelines, such as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers requiring proof of vaccination as a preventive measure.
“It really stood out compared to other provinces, where in Alberta – and starting with football this weekend – there was still no need to produce proof of vaccination, (but) that will change from here. mid-September, ”Jenne said.
In addition, Manitoba exceeds the other two provinces in terms of vaccination.
As of August 28, federal government data shows just over 71 percent of Manitobans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 65 and 66 percent for Saskatchewan and Alberta respectively.
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“We got off to a good start, probably leading the country or second in the country in the first two, three months, but we’ve been pretty much stagnant since then, crawling to get those first few doses into people’s arms.” says Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan.
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Dr Muhajarine adds that Manitoba’s use of the vaccine passport, coupled with a comparatively slower and more measured approach to reopening, could prevent cases from skyrocketing.
“Saskatchewan and Alberta, two opposite provinces, lifted these public health measures almost immediately when we hit a number of vaccinations,” said Dr. Muhajarine.
“In fact, in Saskatchewan we didn’t go quite there, but a spitting distance maybe… and we lifted all the restrictions on July 11th.”
Manitoba’s deputy chief public health officer Dr Jazz Atwal said officials are trying to avoid a lockdown as much as possible, but need buy-in.
“It will depend on Manitobans,” says Dr. Atwal.
“Again, if all Manitobans do what they can to mitigate COVID-19. That is, get vaccinated, that is, if you are sick, go get tested, participate in case and contact management, and be aware of hygiene, be aware of your interactions.
Dr Atwal adds by limiting opportunities for unvaccinated people to mingle – something other Prairie provinces have been slow to embrace – Manitoba could stay ahead of the game.
In addition, health officials can always consider reintroducing ways to limit interactions between people, in order to stem a fourth wave he previously declared inevitable.
That said, he admits that the number of cases will inevitably increase as students return to class.
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