Canadians may be looking with envy at the United States as it lifts COVID-19 restrictions and distributes vaccinations, but experts say key indicators show there’s no reason to covet our southern neighbour’s pandemic response. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bruce Kluckhohn

Canadians may be looking with envy at the United States as it lifts COVID-19 restrictions and distributes vaccinations, but experts say key indicators show there’s no reason to covet our southern neighbour’s pandemic response. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bruce Kluckhohn

‘Nothing to be envious about:’ Experts caution against following U.S. lead on COVID

The big picture over the last week looks successful in the U.S., but it is still to be seen if the vaccine rollout proves to be equitable

Canadians may be looking with envy at the United States as it lifts COVID-19 restrictions and distributes vaccinations, but experts say key indicators show there’s no reason to covet our southern neighbour’s pandemic response.

“The final chapter in the COVID-19 pandemic has not been written yet. This is still an evolving and highly dynamic changing story,” said Nazeem Muhajarine, a professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan.

In recent weeks, U.S. citizens have received vaccines en masse. President Joe Biden had set a goal of 100 million vaccines to be given during his first 100 days in office, but increased that to 200 million when the original target was met in half the time.

But Muhajarine said you cannot define success by that alone. The U.S., for most of the pandemic, has had significantly higher infection rates and continues to see many more people hospitalized and dying.

“There is nothing to be envious about with the pandemic indicators.”

Areas across Canada have brought in tighter restrictions as the pandemic’s third wave, fuelled by more easily transmissible variants, has resulted in increased infections, hospitalizations and pressures on the health-care system. For the first time since COVID-19 took hold last spring, Canada last week averaged more confirmed cases per one million people than the U.S.

At the same time, images of Americans eating at restaurants, going to bars and seemingly returning to normal life have left many Canadians asking about our country’s response.

The U.S. is in the midst of rolling out its mass vaccination plan. Most states are giving out doses with less rules about who has access and every state has committed to making all adults eligible by April 19.

Almost 25 per cent of the total population of roughly 332 million had been fully vaccinated as of Thursday. Canada had fully vaccinated just over two per cent of its 39 million citizens, but that number doesn’t include Quebec.

Muhajarine said the big picture over the last week looks successful in the U.S., but it is still to be seen if the vaccine rollout proves to be equitable by targeting marginalized people who are at a higher risk of infection and a deadly outcome.

He said counties in the southern states have much lower vaccination rates despite having more vulnerable populations.

Vaccines are also just one part of the pandemic response, he said.

He pointed to Michigan, just south of Ontario, which is recording an average of 7,359 new cases a day. Ontario reported 4,736 new infections Thursday — a new COVID-19 record for the province, but still significantly less than its neighbour to the south.

The responses to surging rates of more infectious variants show a stark difference between the countries. Michigan’s governor has said there will be no new public-health measures in that state, while Ontario is in a four-week lockdown.

Earlier this week, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said people who want to follow the U.S. lead would need to be OK with accepting the deadly consequences.

“I ask those folks who are upset about restrictions: Would you … be willing to defend a COVID death rate five times higher than what we have experienced? I don’t think any reasonable Albertan would say yes in response to that.”

Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist and founder of EPI Research in Winnipeg, said Canada’s response is being led by science and best practices.

She said she would not be surprised to see variation among states in the next few months in terms of an increase in infections where restrictions were loosened but vaccinations were not evenly given out.

“We should not be envious of the United States and we should not emulate their public health approach to this pandemic,” she said.

“The last couple weeks is not indicative of the overall experience in the U.S.”

Carr cautioned that does not mean Canadians have a reason to let down their guard.

There have been significant hurdles in this country’s vaccine rollout and delivery, she said. And Canada is one of the few countries in the world with three of the variants of concern spreading in communities.

She said Canada has been successful in keeping more people safe throughout the pandemic by making difficult decisions through a more shared approach between politicians, scientists and the public.

As infections rise again, she said, those lessons cannot be forgotten.

“We have to fight even harder to get (case numbers) back down.”

CoronavirusUnited Statesvaccines

Just Posted

Tammy Bradford, manager of the Creston Museum & Archives for the last 23 years, wants to welcome visitors to check out their exhibits and programs this summer. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston Museum encourages summer visitors to check out programs and activities

After some temporary closures of indoor exhibits due to COVID-19, the museum has re-opened to welcome visitors

Daryl Jolly, his wife Kerry Pagdin, their sons Cole Jolly (left) and Graeme Jolly, and their dogs Gracie and Clover. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College arts chair diagnosed with lung cancer, family launches fund drive

Daryl Jolly co-founded the college’s digital arts program

Nasukin Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band poses under the mural in the administration building. The mural depicts past elders David Luke, Wilfred Jacobs, Isobel Louie, Charlotte Basil, and Louis White. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Lower Kootenay Band announces cross-border COVID-19 vaccine clinic

In partnership with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the clinic will be held on National Indigenous Peoples Day

TELUS is proposing to construct a 5G tower at Pople Park. Photo: Sheri Regnier
First 5G tower in Trail proposed for placement in popular park

TELUS has a consultation process open until June 28

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

Lindsay, Isla and Ethan Fischer & Maddie, Everly, Ray and Jessica Pressacc of the Tadanac Residents Association along with Aron Burke (Kootenay Savings Community Liaison) Kootenay Savings file
Kootenay Savings Foundation continues community support

The Kootenay Savings Foundation has once again handed out their twice a… Continue reading

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

Most Read