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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A boat caught on fire this morning (May 11) in Port Hardy. (Adam Harding/Port Hardy Fire Rescue Facebook photo)
Fishing boat catches fire in Port Hardy, owner’s quick thinking puts out flames

The incident is a good reminder to always have a working fire extinguisher onboard your boat

School District 85 logo
Fort Rupert Elementary School gets funding from MusiCounts

The $1 million investment will support 95 schools

Agree or disagree with North Island Rising? Write a letter to the editor at editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish it online and in print.
McQuarrie: Budget meeting drama caused by unruly councillor

It was an amazing and unexpected response to what should have been… Continue reading

The medical clinic building in Port McNeill. (Bill McQuarrie photo)
Medical clinic gives update on health care in Port McNeill

The town appears to be ‘closer to a new and sustainable medical model for our town’

New electric buses are coming to school districts. (Submitted photo)
New electric school buses will drive North Island forward

Travel on electric school buses is smoother, quieter, and healthier than traditional diesel buses

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read