So far so good … although this doesn’t mean we can turn our backs on COVID-19 after last week’s reopening.
Our own experiences with the novel coronavirus tells us it shouldn’t be trusted.
And experiences of places elsewhere now paying a price for loosened restrictions should also be a lesson. We could encounter the same problems here … although, at least for now, this hasn’t been Saskatchewan’s experience.
The first week of a reopened Saskatchewan has, according to Sunday’s updated dashboard numbers, produced only an additional 193 cases (a seven-day average of 27 cases per day) and four deaths.
Even better news, active cases have fallen from 399 on July 11 reopening day to 282 a week later on Sunday — the lowest active-case count in Saskatchewan since Oct. 15.
The 53 hospitalizations are only one fewer than a week earlier, speaking to the virulence of the new Delta and other strains. This remains the single biggest reason why it’s so dangerous to turn your back on this virus. That said, those 53 hospitalizations in Saskatchewan are the fewest since Dec. 1, suggesting reopening hasn’t so far interrupted the downward trend we were seeing.
“So far” remains the operative.
A week into reopening doesn’t tell us much about how ending mandatory mask-wearing and social-distancing is affecting virus spread.
It does appear (at least anecdotally) the more testosterone you produce, the less likely you are now to be wearing a mask. It may be interesting in the next month to see if those who are younger and male are more likely to be getting sicker — a problem evident elsewhere.
Crowded soccer venues and pubs after games during the European Football Championship are being blamed for a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in Britain. Similarly, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control is seeing an uptick in cases since July 4 that became a target for American re-openings. Again, Americans are also finding young males to be getting sicker.
Worse, this demographic is one of the reasons the U.S. vaccine rollout has stalled. Notwithstanding the early hoopla about how much slower Canadians were to vaccinate, we now have surpassed Americans in not only first doses but also fully vaccinated as a percentage of the population — 48.8 per cent of our population compared with 48.5 per cent of eligible Americans.
It is a race we need not take much comfort in winning. The U.S. border restrictions will soon be lifted, largely due to public pressure on both sides. We remain closely tied to our neighbours, but — as the recent Stanley Cup playoffs show — that now stands as a further problem of transmission.
As was the case in Britain and the U.S. where an easing of restrictions on large sports venue gatherings appears to be driving up cases, the Stanley Cup playoffs and large street gatherings outside the Bell Centre may be one reason why cases in Montreal are on the upswing.
The Roughrider season is a little over two weeks away and the large social gatherings (or better put, impact there from) are just beginning.
Again, this doesn’t automatically mean this will be Saskatchewan’s experience.
Here, we can still somewhat depend on our natural COVID-19 defences — our relatively isolated population and few such large-gathering events. Those factors that kept our numbers down last summer.
However, that 88 active cases (as of Sunday) were in the exceedingly under/sparsely populated three most northern zones shows demographics like income and race are big factors — especially in family units that have many people in the same household.
Such households still tend to be ones with a lot of unvaccinated people, which remains our biggest stumbling block.
In the first week since re-opening, Saskatchewan doled out 40,851 second-doses (5,836 a day) but only 7,930 first doses (1,132 a day).
Government messaging that vaccines stop people from getting sick or hospitalized still isn’t getting through to certain demographics. And with the province now opened up, many feel even less reason to get vaccinated.
As good as the initial reopening days seem, there remains reason to worry.
Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
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