Prime Minister Jason Kenney shakes hands and embraces visitors to Calgary and poses side by side for photos in a video posted on his social media pages on Sunday.
“It was a pleasure to connect with Albertans during Canada’s first major post-pandemic event,” the caption read.
His choice of wording – “post-pandemic” – worries health experts who say it incorrectly suggests that the coronavirus is no longer a cause for concern.
“I’m concerned about the degree to which this video really calls for a full return to normal…the idea that the pandemic is over, gone away, and you don’t have to worry about anything going wrong. It’s just scientifically wrong,” said Timothy Caulfield, Canadian Research Chair in Health and Law and Politics at the University of Alberta.
In recent weeks, the value of COVID-19 and the rate of positivity have risen in Alberta. And the county, Thursday, reported an increase in active cases for the first time since May.
I have a desire to have fun and communicate. (And a political victory). But is shooting 100% normal?
While he understands the desire to return to normalcy, Caulfield said he believes there will be more such “hard-line” political messages in the future.
He said, “Governments all over the world are trying to make gains; political opponents are trying to highlight the idea that they have been a failure. And what will be lost … is actual science, actual evidence.”
“It further politicalizes our entire efforts to combat the pandemic.”
Dr. Gabriel Fabro, associate professor of general internal medicine at the University of Calgary, said he and his colleagues are holding their breaths to see if cases will rise after the Calgary stampede, the first major event to take place in Canada since the pandemic began. The stampede ended on Sunday.
Honestly, I just don’t know how much more we can afford.– Dr. Gabriel Fabro
“Telling people it’s over when it’s not over yet may put you at risk of lowered precautions. People who aren’t careful, they might get the message that they don’t need to go get a second dose, in which case, this puts the general population at risk for a more variable resurgence Transmissibility,” Fabro said.
A particular concern for Fabreau is that the proportion of Albertans with at least one dose has stabilized somewhat. On Sunday, the county saw the fewest first doses given since February, when access to a vaccine was scarce.
“Alberta and Saskatchewan have the lowest vaccination rates in the country. We know that the delta variant has become dominant in Calgary,” Fabro said.
The Netherlands, or the United Kingdom, or Israel, and all of them [reopened] And they had similar messages…then they had U-shaped case curves that showed a huge rise in cases among the younger population, and then they had to reimpose restrictions.”
Other countries point out the reason for caution
Cases of COVID-19 were lowest in the Netherlands when the country reopened in June, and vaccination rates were similar to Alberta. At the beginning of July, infections jumped 500 percent in one week. Most cases were in young adults and were of a highly transmissible delta variant.
And one music venue has seen that more than one in 20 attendees, or 1,000 people, have tested positive after an outdoor concert, according to local media. The party, like the party tent at Stampede in North Nashville, required visitors to show evidence of vaccination or a negative entry test.
Fabro said his biggest concerns are about the mental health and well-being of his healthcare colleagues.
“If we’re going to see a fourth wave, I just — I can’t imagine the detrimental impact that’s going to have on our employees and our healthcare system. And you know, frankly, I just don’t know how much more we can take.”
Caulfield said it’s great to celebrate victories, such as Canada’s overall success in vaccination efforts compared to many regions around the world.
“But I think the messages should leave open the possibility of a great deal of uncertainty,” he said.
“What I would like to see is these positive messages being paired with what we need to do going forward. So, ‘Isn’t that great where we are now, Alberta?'” Let’s make this even better and let’s make sure we’re all vaccinated.”