Disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases in NE Calgary has doctors calling for more resources

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Disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases in north east Calgary has doctors calling for more resources
WATCH: Calgary doctors and a local community group say more action needs to be taken to deal with the huge number of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the city. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the north east is being disproportionately affected – Nov 23, 2020

Calgary doctors and a local community group say more action needs to be taken to deal with the high number of cases in north east Calgary.

Alberta Health has divided the city into 16 local geographic areas.

While most of the rest of the city has cases per 100,000 in the 100 and 200 range, Calgary Upper NE has 728 cases per 100,000.

Lower NE sat at 320 per 100,000 people and Calgary Centre had 352 as of Monday evening.

“These are incredibly high numbers,” Dr. Joe Vipond, an ER physician, said on Monday.

He said a number of factors are at play. He believes more people in northeast Calgary don’t have the luxury of working at home and there are more people living in one house.

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“I know there has been talk about providing free masks to the entire northeast,” Vipond said. “They are extremely vulnerable. We need to have more supports in place for people who want to work from home but financially can’t do that.”

Dr. Christine Gibson is a family doctor who works in low income community health centres.

“For the disproportionate rates that we are seeing, we need a stronger amount of resources placed in those communities for a community-based response,” Gibson said.

She says using socio-demographic based data would help better understand COVID-19 risk factors.

“Initially I think it was unacceptable to try to analyze research and outcomes based on race, but I think now that we can see that certain communities are placed at risk,” Gibson said.

“We understand now that it’s actually placing them more in danger to not collect this information — to understand why this might be happening.”

A spokesman for Alberta Health said the government is now collecting demographic data around COVID-19 and hope to release an update soon.

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Bekele Hankebo has helped deliver 72 hampers to isolating families during an outbreak at a northeast Ethiopian church.

He and other volunteers with EthioCare have been trying to keep COVID-19 from spreading through neighbouring communities.

“The stress level is so high. The panic and the fear is there,” said Hankebo, who is the executive director and founder of EthioCare. “If they don’t work, if they are in quarantine, they lose their income. They lose their job. That is also affecting their health,” Hankebo said.

Bekele Hankebo, executive director of EthioCare has been helping deliver hampers to people in isolation. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

He said it’s important that government support grassroots organizations like EthioCare because they are acting as a bridge by translating health information, educating people in isolation and building trust between immigrant populations and government agencies.

“They need to strongly support local community based organizations. They know the community and they know the culture and they know the language. We are not working from home. We are with the community,” Hankebo said.

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Gibson said its important to remember that many people in the northeast are part of cultures who have a more collectivist approach.

“They think about the well-being of the community rather than the just the individual,” he said. “So this allows them to see the public health messaging for the pandemic as a chance to express this normal cultural approach, for everyone to look after each other.

“It’s one reason why certain countries have had a fantastic response in the public to these measures — they care deeply about the well-being of their community,” Gibson said.

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