There are surely more things Premier Scott Moe and his government need to do in this COVID-19 fight, but what the government has done with its vaccine supply has worked. The problem is that vaccines are not the exclusive solution.
While the new cases have, thankfully, levelled off a bit in the southeast and Moose Jaw areas, the new, seemingly more contagious variants continue to hammer Regina and area very hard. The result of this is that Saskatchewan continues to have among the highest per capita new cases in the country, (although even bigger problems in Ontario have pushed Saskatchewan off the front pages of the newspapers).
Far more disturbing than this, however, is that we are now leading the country in per capita COVID-19-related hospitalizations and are now seeing record ICU admissions. This is especially a problem in Regina where ICU doctors and other staff pleaded with the government recently to address the issue of overcrowded ICUs where patients were bunking people in at a rate of two to a room.
In fact, NDP Opposition leader Ryan Meili invited Moe — at the behest of the ICU doctors — to take a quick tour of the ICUs to see how bad the problem actually is. We need to stop a moment and consider the reality here.
Yes, Oppositions will always highlight the most extreme of any situation to score political points. And, yes, the problem that they point to is one that is — at least at this point — far worse in Regina, but that in no way means that the problem isn’t real, that it couldn’t spread to people elsewhere in the province or that it doesn’t affect you right now.
That cases in Regina stubbornly refuse to decrease is a legitimate worry and the thing now driving the debate about why we need more restrictions and certainly why the restrictions we currently have been extended across the province until the middle of next month.
This isn’t just a Regina problem. We also now see a rise in cases — especially new variant cases — in Saskatoon as well and one simply can’t underplay the significance of overcrowded city hospitals and ICUs. For the rest of the province, rising hospitalizations means there won’t be a bed for you if you get COVID-19 or a heart attack of if you are in an accident.
Government numbers show less Saskatchewan people are dying now than in January when more older people were dying of COVID-19. However, those now in hospitals and ICUs are staying there longer. This is likely due to the sad reality that that older people who catch COVID-19 die more quickly and younger people can fight it longer in hospital care.
The added problem is the nature of this province that makes travel in and out of cities a necessity for most rural people. This further makes it necessary for all of us to play by the same general rules (mask wearing, social distancing, severe limits on in-person dining or bar visits) if those rules are to have any positive impact at all.
In short, it’s not exclusively about vaccines … although Moe is right that vaccines are likely the way out of this pandemic.
Why there are less people dying in Saskatchewan has everything to do with the fact that we are leading the nation in per capita vaccination — especially among older people.
While there is an argument that emergency and frontline and others in public settings like teachers need to be a priority too, the reality is that federal government is only providing so much vaccine.
The vaccines we have been doled out quickly and — arguably — wisely. Yes, the province needs to do other things better, but vaccine distribution is one thing we are doing rather well.