Alberta’s high COVID-19 case count has some people rethinking their Thanksgiving arrangements — but not everyone is planning to adhere to the province’s gathering rules, as has been the case throughout the pandemic.
Others are going above and beyond to give thanks this holiday.
Devour Catering will soon be busy preparing donated meals for staff at intensive care units in Calgary hospitals. There are currently 1,079 people with COVID-19 in hospital, with 257 of them in ICU, according to Alberta Health data.
“I could feel the stress and strain and crisis situation in the hospitals and just really wanted to figure out a way to express our support for them,” said J’Val Shuster with Devour Catering.
“I created a product, the I See You ICU care package, and within less than 24 hours, we had 500 meals purchased. Then, once it hit social media, it just exploded.”
Shuster is happy that people want to do something for front-line health-care workers who are exhausted as COVID-19 drags on and ICUs fill up.
“They want to express their appreciation, they want to express their love, their gratitude, and a lot of people feel like there isn’t anything we can do to show how much we support people working in the hospitals,” she said.
We need to stand up for health-care workers, Shuster said.
“We shouldn’t be in this situation where we need to be sending meals to exhausted and overworked ICU teams, but I think many people are feeling very trapped about what to do,” she said.
“They know that something needs to be done, and they’re trying as best as they can to do something to demonstrate their care, especially in the face of people protesting at hospitals and a lot of the verbal abuse that people have been receiving.”
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There were 3,000 orders as of Monday afternoon. In addition to helping ICU staff, the initiative has also boosted Devour Catering’s business.
“We had lots of heartbroken people having to cancel long-planned and long-waited-for celebrations of life, milestone birthdays, some weddings. People expected that by this point in the year, they were going to be able to host these celebrations,” Shuster said.
“Yes, we’ve had a lot of cancellations, which is really heartbreaking, and so we shifted back to doing things online.”
Since Sept. 16, indoor gatherings can only have a maximum of 10 fully vaccinated people from two households, according to the Alberta government. There are no restrictions on kids under 12.
Unvaccinated people who are eligible for the shot cannot gather indoors.
Do your part
Not everyone plans to cancel their Thanksgiving feasts.
A Global Calgary tweet had a range of responses on Monday, with some saying, “As if I’m going to ask such a personal question” regarding guest vaccination status and “I’ll do what I want.”
Others “only invited the vaccinated.”
In reality, infectious disease experts say big dinners should not happen again this year.
“If individuals may be at low risk, they have to remember other people they contact in their social and work circles may not be. Everybody has to do their part to keep this virus under control,” said Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Calgary.
“Although vaccines are out there and helping, not enough people are vaccinated, and we see that every day with overflowing ICU units and tragically, lots of loss of life here in the province in the last two weeks.”
Jenne explained that if you’re vaccinated, you’re safer, but remember: a vaccine is not 100 per cent.
“We’ve known that all along that although the vaccines are excellent at preventing serious disease, you can still be infected and that risk goes up if you have underlying conditions and if there’s a lot of virus in the community,” he said.
“Right now, we have a lot of virus circulating, so people with underlying conditions, even if vaccinated, have to be careful as they move to these indoor social gatherings.”
Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, said: “I just think it would be tremendously tragic to have breakthrough infections in vulnerable people related to a family gathering.”