Rural Alberta health-care providers sign letter of concern over elimination of COVID-19 measures

A group of health-care providers in rural Alberta has written an open letter to residents raising concerns about the province’s changes to COVID-19 testing, isolating and tracing.

The letter is signed by a group of 11 pharmacists, physicians and nurses in Peace River, who say they are publicly expressing their “professional concerns that the risk of the COVID-19 Delta variant should not be underestimated.”

Read more: Alberta to adjust COVID-19 masking, isolation, testing rules over next month

“The virus is now more easily transmitted between people, including those who are vaccinated,” the letter reads.

“As well, without widespread testing, the medical community will not be able to plan for an influx of COVID patients into hospitals until beds are already full, which impacts the care of all patients.”

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The letter recommends residents get vaccinated, continue wearing their masks in indoor, poorly ventilated and crowded areas and consider contacting their MLA, as well as the health minister and premier, to push for continued COVID-19 monitoring.

“I think part of it was just feeling like we just couldn’t not speak out anymore,” said pharmacist Tony Nickonchuk, who signed the letter.

“If it convinces even one person to maybe look at this and go, ‘Maybe we’re not ready to stop testing, tracing and isolating yet,’ then I think it will have served its purpose.”

As of Tuesday, close to 56 per cent of eligible Albertans – or 46.5 per cent of all ages – in the Peace River community have been vaccinated with at least one dose.

“There are no rural areas, really, where things are even remotely as close to Edmonton or Calgary,” said Nickonchuk in reference to those two cities’ vaccination rates.

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“I think trying to highlight, too, that elevated risk there is in the rural areas because of the lower full vaccination.

“I think it was important to put out there and say, ‘Look, we’re still at a pretty high-risk here.’ We’re not at a level where we’re anywhere near herd immunity in the rural areas for sure. So just trying to emphasize that risk still exists and to take it seriously.”

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