After a few days of holiday and respite from the Alberta government’s daily briefings on COVID-19, Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s Dec. 28 announcement that the province’s death toll had climbed past 1,000 people was a grim reminder that this virus is not going anywhere anytime soon.
While our newsroom is cautiously optimistic that 2021 will eventually generate brighter headlines than we repeatedly reported in 2020, the reality is those days are likely on the distant horizon. The first weeks and months of the new year will continue to present challenges and difficulties to overcome.
Case in point, the faster-spreading variant of COVID-19 that originated in the United Kingdom has made its way to Canada – with one case reported in Alberta, as of press time. Thankfully, the Public Health Agency of Canada and various infectious disease specialists have said there is no evidence the new variant is more severe or deadly than the original, and that the existing vaccinations against COVID-19 should still be effective against it.
With many people either bending or breaking the rules on social gatherings over the holiday season, Albertans should expect the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths to continue soaring through January. Until a significant portion of the most vulnerable segments of the population – including the elderly and immunocompromised – receive their doses of the vaccination, the province’s numbers cannot reasonably be expected to drop.
As the new year begins, all people can do – as we have stressed repeatedly in this space over the last several months – is continue taking the precautions against COVID-19 that have been in place for nearly a year now. Stay home as much as possible, wash hands regularly and social distance and wear a mask when out in public.