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Pandemic projected for years to come

The success of Stage two will determine when Alberta will move into Stage three of the re-entry plan
COVID-19

Like all Canadians, Albertans are becoming worn down from the health restrictions enforced and the safety measures implemented due to the pandemic. Wearing masks, hand sanitizing, and keeping the two-metre distance from others have all become the "new normal" in our everyday lives. According to health experts, it does not appear that will change anytime soon. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety has cited, a pandemic will last much longer than a "one-time" event and period of illnesses may come in two or three waves anywhere from three to 12 months apart, and last overall between 12 and 18 months. The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy mimics a similar future pandemic outcome. Researchers predict the pandemic will not end until 60 to 70 percent of the population becomes immune and will have periodic resurges over the next two years. 

The success of Stage two will determine when Alberta will move into Stage three of the re-entry plan. Based on Dr. Deena Hinshaw's live update regarding the recent surge in COVID cases on October 8, that is not likely to occur soon. The Edmonton Zone reported a significant spike of those infected that far exceed numbers from the pandemic's start in March and April. On October 7, the Edmonton Zone reported 347 new cases, which surpassed the highest ever recorded numbers thus far. The previous record was 336 back on April 23. Hinshaw stated, "I'm unsure why Edmonton is the only one with increases. I believe the numbers have been increasing for some time."

Although Hinshaw said," Alberta is not in a second wave," the chart of active cases shows the spike in April and then begins to decline in May, where it stays relatively consistent. It is not until July; the case count steadily started climbing again, with a huge jump at the start of October. Alberta Health Services indicates most new active cases are not in the elderly; instead, it is those in the 20 to 39-year-old age group, which would indicate social gatherings have been a factor. Total active cases as of October 7 list 1251 active cases in the Edmonton Zone and 604 active cases in Calgary, with the remaining provincial health zones all reporting under 100 cases each.

In hopes of limiting the spread, Hinshaw announced further health action for the Edmonton Zone. The AHS Edmonton zone consists of Edmonton, Beaumont, Devon, Fort Saskatchewan, Gibbons, Morinville, St. Albert, Leduc, Thorsby, Sherwood Park, and Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Evansburg and the surrounding villages. Hinshaw is not making the new restrictions mandatory; however, it has placed voluntary restrictions for all residents and visitors. The request is to lower the family and social gatherings from 50 people down to a maximum of 15 people. Another preventative measure is to wear a mask in all indoor work settings unless you are safely distanced or have barriers in place. The last request is to limit cohorts to no more than three. A cohort may be your household, a school, a sports team, or a group of friends.

In Ontario, they, too, are experiencing record-breaking numbers since the start of the pandemic. Ontario Health Officials reported 797 new cases on October 8, and 24 hours later, the provincial count jumped to record an additional 939 cases. Like Alberta, their provincial case infections are now higher in those aged 20 to 39 years old. In consultation with Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, Premier Doug Ford announced new health restrictions for the province, which came into effect on October 10. The province has gone back to the closure of all indoor dining, bars, gyms, casinos, and any other services where face masks may be removed. According to health officials, the tighter restrictions will stay in place for 28 days, at which time they will reassess.

The next few months could be crucial as we are also entering cold and flu season, which mimic the same symptoms as the COVID virus. Although Alberta Health Services has learned a lot more about this virus, it is a new strain, and precisely what's in store for the future would only be an educated guess as we all try to live our lives in the new normal.

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