GUNTER: Fourth wave is waning, but don't expect restrictions to

There are simply a lot of absolutists who are never going to give up on the “need” for a state of emergency.

Lorne Gunter 3 minute read October 21, 2021

Teams in a crowded Calgary intensive care unit tend to a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator. Supplied by Alberta Health Services

At the end of September, the seven-day average for COVID infections in Alberta was 1,642 new positives per day. As of Thursday, it was 776. That’s a drop of 53 per cent.

Don’t expect much coverage of that improvement, though. Lots of experts, opposition politicians and lefty docs will probably never admit the pandemic is improving — rapidly — without their vaunted “firebreak” lockdown.

To them, it’s not good enough that we put our masks back on, stood in line outside the butcher’s (like some Cold War-era Bulgarians), downloaded our passports and got jabs.

There are simply a lot of absolutists who are never going to give up on the “need” for a state of emergency.

The number of patients in ICU because of COVID has dropped by nearly 20 per cent since the beginning of the month, so has the percentage of non-ICU COVID patients in hospital.

Only the number of deaths has increased. The seven-day average for COVID deaths has risen by a little under five per cent.

As tragic as that it, it’s consistent with the natural progression of the pandemic. First infections rise, then hospitalizations. As some people grow even sicker, ICU admissions go up, followed by deaths.

It’s the same as the situation improves: First infections fall, then hospitalizations and ICUs, and finally death stats are the last to come down.

Two of the biggest indicators, too, of whether a wave is growing or shrinking have also improved, markedly.

The percentage of tests for COVID coming back positive is just a little over half of what it was at its peak in the third week of September. And the R-value — the number of other people each person testing positive is likely to infect — has declined from about 1.2 to 0.8.

That means each new person contracting COVID is likely to infect less than one other Albertan.

However, just as you won’t hear much positive talk from the COVID Karens, you won’t hear much from the provincial government, either.

The UCP were badly burnt politically over their Open for Summer relaunch. They’re not going to preen and cluck over good numbers now.

Expect restrictions, such as mask mandates and vaccine passports, to be around for a good long while into the new year.

It’s perplexing that the fourth wave in Alberta has been so bad. The number of infections and the number of severe outcomes should have disconnected.

Everywhere else that had vaccination rates as good as Alberta’s has seen new positive cases climb this fall, but not hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths.

Statistics released Tuesday in the U.K. show that daily infections, per capita, are as high or higher there than at our peak three weeks ago, but severe outcomes are only a quarter of ours. The Brits managed to reopen daily life — maskless — and avoid the debilitating crush our health-care system suffered.

The best speculation I can get out of the government is that because Alberta’s rural areas had poor vaccination rates, they were vulnerable to severe cases.

This is backed up by ICU numbers. At the peak of ICU admissions on September 28, nearly half of patients in ICU in Edmonton were from rural regions and about a third of those in Calgary.

About 40 per cent of Alberta’s population was responsible for just about 60 per cent of severe cases this time around. That tracks with the lower vaccination rates in rural regions, too.

Also, I think because there was no real excuse not to be vaccinated this time, many more patients were embarrassed to admit they hadn’t been vaccinated. As a result, once they got infected, they waited longer before seeking treatment, which inflated the number of severe cases.

Prepare to live with restrictions for months, though, since both the Karens and the Kenneys will be hesitant to lift restrictions.