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

The College of Massage Therapists of B.C. says Van (William) Dinh, a registered massage therapist in Surrey and Langley, has had his licence suspended while an inquiry committee panel investigates allegations of sexual misconduct. (Unsplash photo)
Surrey massage therapist suspended amid sexual misconduct investigation

CMTBC received complaint Van (William) Dinh allegedly exposed ‘sensitive areas of the patient’s body’

Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil Friday evening (May 7) to remember 29-year-old corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, who was killed in last weekend’s brazen daylight shooting outside North Delta’s Scottsdale Centre mall. (James Smith photo)
Hundreds gather to remember victim of North Delta shooting

Corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, 29, was killed in what police say was a targeted incident

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
Surrey woman a face of World Ovarian Cancer Day campaign in London, New York

‘It’s so important we find better treatments,’ Catherine Eiswerth says

Flags flown at half mast out front of Fraser Regional Correctional Centre for slain corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa. (Neil Corbett/ The News)
Public vigil and flying flags at half mast done to honour slain prison guard

Maple Ridge corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, 29, is being remembered in a number of ways

Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford and Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux. (Contributed photos)
BC NDP ‘chose to create a system of chaos’ by holding back COVID-19 data: Cadieux

South Surrey MLAs criticize provincial government after BCCDC documents leak

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

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

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Mandeep Grewal was gunned down outside an Abbotsford bank in October 2018. Police said a violent gang war to control drug-line territory was going on at that time. Drug charges have now been announced against seven people. (FILE PHOTO: John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
7 people face 38 charges related to gang drug activity in Abbotsford and Mission

Police say investigation began in 2018 into expansion of Brothers Keepers’ drug line

Most Read