The emerging reality for medical officials across Canada is that COVID-19 is now a national challenge. The virus is not an issue requiring attention in urban centres but alternatively mandates a strategy that recognizes a presence in every community across our large and expansive nation.
By the weekend of November 13, media articles appeared related to the rising number of infections in rural communities across Canada. Smoky Lake County, located northeast of Edmonton, reported the highest caseload per capita in the province at 63 active infections. Local officials were experiencing difficulty in identifying positive test locations due to the large geographic size of the municipality.
On November 14, record levels for new infections were established in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the majority were located outside of Regina and Saskatoon. In Ontario, most rural health units have been designated in the new provincial framework as green or yellow whereas rising local cases have placed Waterloo Region in the higher orange category which carries more restrictions.
As noted in an earlier column, the virus was literally out of control last month in large areas of rural America, particularly North Dakota which geographically borders the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. By November 13, the state was allowing health care employees who tested positive but remained asymptomatic to continue working. A Canadian news report indicated that spiking numbers in Manitoba are still well below their southern neighbours.
In the spring, North Dakota was one of very few states that did not enter a lockdown, with their government focusing on individual responsibility as opposed to facial covering requirements. However, due to changes in prevailing conditions state-wide mask usage was mandated on November 13 as the rates of new cases and deaths remained the highest across the nation.
A report from USA Today on rural healthcare and the pandemic noted that last spring the virus attacked major metropolitan areas like New York City. During the past summer, it spread to many suburban areas and now is moving to rural centres with limited health care resources to maintain this on-going struggle.
The advice on COVID-19 prevention is increasingly consistent on both sides of the border. We all need to be responsible and be safe.
Written by Art Sinclair