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

Emergency crews responded to the scene of a suspicious fire at the southeast corner of the OK Café in Vanderhoof Friday, June 11. The historic building is 101-years-old. (BC RCMP photo)
OK Café in Vanderhoof alright after suspicious fire

Damage kept to a minimum by firefighters

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. Northern Health confirmed it has the lowest vaccination rates amongst the province’s five regional health authorities. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Vaccination rates in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Fort St James well below provincial average

COVID-19 immunization clinics for youth 12+ coming up in Fort St. James

Steve McAdam (left) is studying substrate conditions in the Nechako River and how they impact sturgeon eggs. The work will help design habitat restoration measures, said McAdam. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Sturgeon egg studies to help inform future habitat restoration

“It’s an interesting, challenging issue,” says Steve McAdam

Saik’uz First Nation Coun. Jasmine Thomas and Chief Priscilla Mueller speak about the need for addiction treatment facility near Vanderhoof, March 2021. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof addiction treatment centre tries again with ministry support

Agriculture minister insists she is not interfering in land commission

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Most Read