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Alberta, Saskatchewan COVID-19 gets a lesson for the rest of Canada: experts

Alberta, Saskatchewan COVID-19 gets a lesson for the rest of Canada: experts

For 19 months, provinces across Canada have been finding ways to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In and out of waves, each province has handled COVID-19 differently and has seen ups and downs. Now in a Delta-powered fourth wave, two provinces are in the national spotlight: Alberta and Saskatchewan.

This summer, the two Western jurisdictions eased almost all safeguards as vaccine prices rose. But since then, inoculation rates have slowed and new infections have pushed hospitals to the brink.

Both provinces are preparing to hill-pedal, but you can not “just magically put this genius back in the bottle,” said Dr. Cory Neudorf, interim senior medical health officer at the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

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Neudorf believes this is an educational moment for Canadians.

“Well, as we’ve learned through these other subsequent waves, the faster you act when you see a wave happening, the better your response will be,” he said.

What’s Happening in Alberta?

Both provinces have seen increases in COVID-19 cases since the repeal of summer protection measures. On Tuesday, Alberta reported 1,434 new cases and nine deaths. In Saskatchewan, 508 new cases were recorded and two deaths were reported.

On Monday, Alberta’s top doctor admitted that the summer’s relaxation was a mistake – one she “deeply regrets”.

“I think that path was set when we removed all restrictions on public health in early July,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw in a call to the Calgary Primary Health Care Network.

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“Because whether it was my intention or not, what was heard at the end of July was: ‘COVID is over, we can go away and ignore it.’ And it has had consequences. ”

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw says Alberta's' Open For Summer 'plan was premature, leading to increase in COVID-19 cases'

Hinshaw says Alberta’s plan “Open for Summer” was premature, leading to an increase in COVID-19 cases

Hinshaw says Alberta’s plan “Open for Summer” was premature, leading to an increase in COVID-19 cases

As Alberta moved to loosen up in the summer, the province’s weekly average fell in new daily cases.

On July 1, Alberta unveiled its “Open for Summer” plan, who decided to facilitate measures such as terminating asymptomatic testing and no longer notifying close contacts about exposure.

At the time, the weekly average was 57 new cases per day. That number continued to decline until July 22, when the average shifted to 61 new cases over seven days.

On August 1, the weekly average moved to 178 new cases per day; September 1 was the weekly average of 1,082 new cases per day.

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Dr. Paul Parks, president of emergency medicine at the Alberta Medical Association and an emergency physician at Medicine Hat, told Global News that he sees “the regular attack” of COVID-19 patients coming in, the majority of them unvaccinated.

“Fortunately, many of them are good enough to be sent home,” he said. “But more and more people now need to be hospitalized so that our COVID departments fill up.”

To deal with the influx, Parks said his hospital is canceling or postponing operations – a step other hospitals across the country have taken several times during the pandemic.

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While the mask mandate has returned to Alberta, albeit with exceptions, Parks said that is far from enough.

“We have not really implemented any really strategic targeted public health measures that will stop the attack and slow down the number of cases we have right now,” he said.

“Apart from a masked mandate and nicely asking people not to gather or drink after 10pm, Alberta has done nothing to slow this curve.”

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Things have also taken a turn for the worse in neighboring Saskatchewan.

On July 11, the province decided to ease public health measures, including indoor mask use, but the government said unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people should still consider facial clothing.

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At that time, the weekly average for daily case counts was as low as 43.

The rolling average continued to fall in the days that followed, but began to climb again at the end of the month. On August 1, 55 new cases were reported daily over a week; on September 1, the weekly average was 263 new cases per day.

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Saskatchewan sets another daily record for COVID-19 cases

On Monday, Saskatchewan reinstated an emergency order to deal with an increase in COVID-19 admissions. The executive order, which ended July 11, gives the government the power to redirect health care workers to areas experiencing pressure from the virus.

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Moe introduced a new public health order to help calm the rise: Unvaccinated people who are in close contact with a COVID-19 case must isolate themselves for 10 days, while a vaccinated person only needs self-monitoring.

Epidemiologist Nazem Muhajarine of the University of Saskatchewan recently told Global News that he believed the increase was a direct result of the July 11 reopening.

He later said vaccination rates had slowed and many Saskatchewan residents attended group events over the summer – allowing Delta to spread.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan sees the worst case of COVID-19 ever'

Saskatchewan sees the worst case of COVID-19 ever

Saskatchewan sees the worst case of COVID-19 ever

For Neudorf, this moment reinforces in time that the pandemic is an ongoing threat.

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“Advice that may have been given months ago needs to be reconsidered in light of what the pandemic is throwing at us right now,” he said. Fighting this pandemic requires a layered response, or what some jurisdictions have called the ‘Swiss cheese model’, that recognizes that any restriction or protection we put in place has holes in it … You need multiple layers of protection for to get a handle on this. “

Vaccines are an important layer, he said, but relying solely on immunization right now is not a sound strategy, as vaccines do not provide 100 percent protection or prevent transmission. Other necessary layers include mandatory masking in public spaces, restriction of non-essential gatherings, and evidence of immunization.

“Certain types of activities have a much higher risk of transmission, either leading to a transient event or exposing people who are more vulnerable in our society. “We should try to do everything we can to ensure that it is a safe environment and that includes immunizing the workers who work with these people and greater care with infection control in these situations,” he said.

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“So those are the kind of lessons we need to learn. Some of these things are not available in Alberta and Saskatchewan right now, combined with lower immunization rates, and it has just created an environment for a rapid explosion of COVID cases again. ”

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Both Neudorf and Parks want their provincial governments to act quickly.

For Parks, his hospital is starting to transfer patients around Alberta to free up space, but he fears that if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the health care system will be pushed past the brink.

“Therefore, we ask our management to do something to implement targeted public health measures,” he said. “And we ask the public to do their part, wear masks, avoid large groups and be vaccinated. We need help. ”

– With files from Heather Yourex-West, Karen Bartko, David Giles and Nathaniel Dove.

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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