Plenty of blame to share for current COVID crisis

A lot of stupid stuff has been written about the pandemic over the past year. (Year and a half? Two years? Seems like forever.) Here’s an example of one of the dumber statements, from July 4, 2021:

“Yes, I know, the crisis isn’t officially over, and it may never be. There will be spikes in COVID cases in Alberta … but it is essentially over. At last count, there were fewer than 900 active cases in Alberta, the lowest total since last July. More than 73% of the population is vaccinated, with nearly 45% fully vaccinated. Good for us. Let’s hope those numbers keep going up, and we start to add kids under 12 to the list.”

The author of that optimistic prognostication is none other than your humble correspondent.

In my defence, I’m not that bright. But at the time, I sincerely believed that the worst of this pandemic was behind us. We had a vaccine; heck, we had a cornucopia of vaccines! They were easily and widely available, they were free, and most importantly, they worked. Sure, the vaccine wasn’t a 100% guarantee that you wouldn’t get COVID 19, but it was close. And yes, you could have a negative reaction – even, tragically, a fatal one – but they were rare and mostly a lot less painful than getting COVID. And, despite what you might have heard, the vaccines were entirely free of microchips!

So, all the signs were good. More than 5 million doses have been injected into Albertans, and COVID numbers started to fall. But something happened, or more accurately didn’t happen. 

There is a tendency to blame the fourth wave on the actions (or more accurately the lack of action) of the provincial government. At one point, the Kenney government, with the apparent blessing of Dr. Deana Hinshaw, announced that all restrictions would be lifted. No more masks, no more contact tracing, no more restrictions on gathering size. The only thing they didn’t do was unveil a giant banner that said “Mission Accomplished”. This was shockingly stupid, a strategy you could call the ‘what you don’t know won’t hurt you’ plan. Fortunately, genuine public outcry (not just the usual manufactured outrage on Twitter) resulted in the government changing course, at least a little.

Then there was another puzzling decision by the provincial government – a mass vacation.

When the numbers started to spike, the Kenney government chose this time to virtually shut down. Kenney simply disappeared, as did Health Minister Tyler ‘the Shadow’ Shandro. Even the ubiquitous Hinshaw vanished. Now, only the most churlish grump would begrudge a beleaguered politician a little vacation time. And generally, the less we see of Jason Kenney, the better. But the premier AND the health minister AND the chief medical officer all incommunicado at the same time? What, they couldn’t coordinate their schedules? This fiasco resulted in the media spectacle of rarely seen cabinet ministers being asked COVID-related questions, only to be silenced by officious little communication twerps, desperate to justify their six-figure salaries. 

So now we’re back to wearing masks. We’re back to overcrowded hospitals and ICUs and overworked hospital workers and postponed surgeries. And now vaccine laggards are being offered $100 to do what the rest of us did because it was our civic duty. Where’s my gift card, Jason?

So who’s to blame?

Without a doubt, the UCP government botched the crisis repeatedly. But the government is not entirely to blame. 

At last report, roughly 70% of eligible Albertans had been fully vaccinated. Or, put another way, 30% of eligible Albertans are, for reasons both legitimate and ridiculous, actively avoiding getting a painless vaccine that could save their lives and help bring society back to normal. Not surprisingly, 96% of all new COVID cases since Jan. 1 are among unvaccinated people. 

Hate on the UCP all you like, they deserve it. But there is plenty of blame to share. To paraphrase Cassius’ line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

2 comments

  1. Plenty of blame to share? Says who? Oh, you. Ah. After a kenney pronouncement lifting restrictions on July 1, it was time to tempt fate and go to an Elks game, a walk on the wild side against common sense. Began to wonder a bit about your logic this summer. The 58% of the total population of Alberta who are fully vaxxed are in NO way to blame for your ICU crisis – they stepped up responsibly. That leaves crap populist bible thumper right wing nitwit politicians in nominal charge of Alberta and the hairy armpit scratcher crowd who cannot step up to join society and get their shots as the ones to blame. Don’t disingenuously try to spread blame — it’s obvious to whom it belongs in Alberta, and everywhere else. It’s completely disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

    I have a brother and family in Calgary, so Alberta goings-on in the pandemic are important to me. My relatives don’t seem to have the happy go-lucky attitude you exhibit, and somehow managed to avoid the Stampede although living only a few blocks away. Having been in the petro industry and its adjuncts until retirement and rather more conservative in outlook than I am, both my brother and wife seem to not be infested with vague feelings that the UCP and Con politicians are correct in the way they’ve handled the pandemic and that there is blame to share. Instead, they abhor the continuing idiocy of UCP pols and the unvaccinated, just like other normal folk.

    My Calgary niece is safely back here in Halifax to continue her Masters after an 18 month hiatus. You’re 50 times less likely as an individual to be infected with Covid here than in Alberta. Has been so since day one. Nobody in hospital, nobody to blame. That’s proper public health, the policy here is Covid Zero, and we still mask up despite our far greater vaccine coverage. That restriction will cease becoming mandatory when 75% of the total population is fully vaxxed — it’s now at 71%. About 68% of Canadians are fully vaxxed, and Alberta and Saskatchewan are the dumkopf provinces ten points below average at the very bottom of the provincial heap — so not by a little bit.

    https://covid19tracker.ca/vaccinationtracker.html

    As for your remark that an NDP government would be a disaster following the absurdly awful one of kenney and the UCP, it’s patently absurd to say so. I question your reasoning power. As in, WTF are you on about?

    I am not a Green nor a Dipper, not a Lib, and certainly not a Con. I tout for nobody. All the current parties and leaders exhibit varying degrees of uselessness to my 74 year-old mind, but I have a visceral dislike for the modern Con typified by harper and his successors. The rest I can tolerate if forced to.

  2. As teeth-grinding as the $100 to the unvaccinated is (a tactic likely just to be considered patronizing and insulting by the anti-vax crowd), one thing that’s happened for me is that my return to the office has been postponed. I was all set to go back today, but with Friday’s news, I can skip the commute to downtown and back, for now.

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