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‘More than frustration’: Medical leaders address South zone rise in COVID-19 cases

Click to play video: 'Alberta medical leaders address South zone COVID-19 cases' Alberta medical leaders address South zone COVID-19 cases
Alberta’s lead medical officer of health and South zone medical director are teaming up to issue a personal plea. They’re asking people in the South zone to work together when it comes to curbing the spread of COVID-19. Jessica Robb reports – Mar 25, 2021

Medical leaders are taking a personal approach to get the message across about the concerning rise in COVID-19 cases in the South zone over the past month.

Dr. Vivien Suttorp, lead medical officer of health, and Dr. Aaron Low, South zone medical director, repeated Thursday what area residents been hearing for over a year: wash your hands, wear your mask, and keep your distance.

Read more: Lethbridge records its highest active COVID-19 case count yet

On March 10, the zone had a total of 306 active cases, with 11 infections involving the variant detected in the U.K.

As of March 25, there were 510 active cases in the South zone, with 118 of those being infections of the B.1.1.7 variant.

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Read more: ‘Future is up to us,’ says Hinshaw, as Alberta adds 191 new variant COVID-19 cases

But, they also took a different approach in hopes of getting the message across.

“I’ve had to call people who live in a different country and tell them that their spouse had passed away without them having any prospects of coming for a funeral,” said Low.

“And that has been heart-wrenching, not just for me as a physician or as a medical director, but just as a person.”

The doctors said they, too, are struggling to get through the pandemic.

“We’re not different than any of you. And even though we’re giving these messages, we feel the burden of how hard this is,” said Low.

“This is more than frustration. It’s just been difficult. It’s affected our lives in many ways.”

Read more: South zone COVID-19 numbers trending differently than the rest of Alberta

The rise in COVID-19 cases in the South zone has been linked back to family gatherings, extended family gatherings, household visits, and faith based services.

With Easter coming up, Suttorp is advising people to respect the guidelines in place, but noted that there is a concern with spread happening due to family and faith-based gatherings. She also stressed the importance of getting tested.

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“If people aren’t getting tested, the numbers we have now are just the tip of the iceberg. And that is what I fear is actually occurring,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw says each COVID-19 metric tells a different story when considering more restrictions in Alberta' Hinshaw says each COVID-19 metric tells a different story when considering more restrictions in Alberta
Hinshaw says each COVID-19 metric tells a different story when considering more restrictions in Alberta – Mar 25, 2021

With infectious diseases, the doctors reminded people there can be a spectrum of levels of illness.

“A young child may just have a runny nose for a day, and then there’s others with extremely severe disease,” Suttorp said.

Suttorp encouraged anyone who is showing any COVID-19 symptoms to get tested.

The messaging comes after the first case of the COVID-19 variant detected in the U.K. was confirmed in the South zone about three weeks ago.

“Those variants came out of the blue. They were not linked to travel, they were not linked to travel outside of southern Alberta,” Suttorp said. “They just came. So we know that they came from somewhere and somebody else.”

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Read more: Alberta records first 2 cases of Brazil COVID-19 variant due to community spread

Not knowing where cases originate makes them difficult trace, and allows them to spread quicker, the doctors said.

“That is the worry, when we see increased case numbers that are not linked to another case. And that is what we are seeing at this point in time in the Lethbridge and Cardston areas,” Suttorp said.

Suttorp said testing numbers in the region have gone up in the recent weeks.

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