Is this the time to lower our guard against the threat of COVID-19 and its variants?

The Lady - a gift from a friend. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
The Lady - a gift from a friend. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

The head of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), Dr. Paul Boucher, in an open letter says he has significant concerns with the province’s decision to suspend almost all of its COVID-19 public health protocols.

He is not alone in expressing this sentiment. Some experts believe fourth wave is inevitable, primarily among young and healthy individuals. What about the threat of variants to people who are vaccinated and those who are not? Do we have a plan for them? The majority of the Delta cases in Canada are in those who are unvaccinated, or are partially vaccinated. It is mostly those who are unvaccinated who are dying after contracting COVID-19.

We have been warned of an incoming Delta variant-driven fourth wave. Experts say that is likely to be very different than Canada’s previous waves. We know the Delta variant is highly contagious. It is predicted the unvaccinated individuals will thrust the country into fourth wave of the disease. Some experts believe fourth wave is already here.

In spite of all this the Alberta Government recently announced Stage 3 of Alberta’s Open for Summer plan. All other public health measures have been lifted. This includes all restrictions on:

  • social gatherings – there are no longer capacity limits on either indoor or outdoor gatherings
  • recreation, performance and entertainment activities
  • business closures and capacity restrictions
  • large events, including concerts, sporting events, exhibitions and festivals

What about wearing a mask?

Individuals may choose to continue to wear masks in certain settings. Mask use in public indoor settings is no longer required except when working in or visiting any continuing care facility, as well as any facility operated by AHS, Covenant or their contracted service providers.

Are we on the right track?

Many experts believe we are rushing too fast. Reopening now is risky. Alberta’s reopening plan was drafted before the arrival of the Delta variant and fails to account for the potential impact of the highly contagious strain.

Pediatricians in Alberta have urged Premier Kenney to delay the removal of monitoring measures until 85 per cent of Albertans have been immunized, or until the COVID-19 pandemic has reached the less volatile endemic stage.

Rapid spread of the Delta variant in the U.K. should serve as a warning to Albertans. Some experts have predicted the Delta variant will become Alberta’s dominant strain and will contribute to a surge of cases in September.

Is Alberta’s premier concerned about the fourth wave?

Few days ago, the premier acknowledged the ongoing risk of exposure. He advised people to “use common sense and exercise personal responsibility” when enjoying their new freedoms.

The premier is reported to have said, “People will get infected. Some people will get sick. Regrettably, a few people likely will pass away, as has been the case forever with influenza, but we don’t shut down society to deal with that kind of limited and controllable risk. We manage the risk. The vaccines give us a superpower to manage it. Let’s embrace that.”

Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Theresa Tam, has warned against opening too quickly. Protests have been staged at government buildings in Calgary and Edmonton. Many Alberta doctors are reacting with surprise and disappointment to the province’s plan to relax its COVID-19 surveillance and management system.

Canada’s aim is to see as many eligible Canadians vaccinated this summer as possible. As of August 6, 80 per cent of those eligible have received a first dose, while 65 per cent of those eligible are now fully vaccinated. As of August 10, 76 per cent of Albertans 12+ have received one dose of the vaccine and 67 per cent of Albertans 12+ are fully vaccinated. Hope is to get 90 per cent of Canadians fully vaccinated.

I think people should continue to be careful as they increase their social and sporting activates. There are many adults and children who are not vaccinated. Hopefully, by next month we will have 90 per cent of Albertans and Canadians in the rest of the country will be fully vaccinated.

Better be safe than sorry!

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