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‘I don’t want to minimize it’: Sask. doctor wary as COVID-19 measures ease

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– Jan 29, 2022

Regina infectious disease physician Dr. Alexander Wong said he anticipates things to “get worse” for hospitals in ICU in the next couple of weeks as COVID-19 case counts remain high.

Wong made the comments on Thursday night during a national discussion panel focused on the prairie provinces, hosted by Protect our Province Alberta.

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatchewan updates self-isolation, close contact protocols

It comes a day after the government of Saskatchewan relaxed some COVID-19 public health measures including isolation periods and close contact notification in schools.

Wong said it is difficult to know what the immediate impact of these decisions will be.

“Truthfully, it’s probably going to be relatively minor in the grand scheme of things because there is significant community transmission of Omicron.”

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Wong said the challenge is that hospitalization and ICU admissions aren’t expected to reach the top for the next week or two. He wishes the government would have given health-care workers “a little bit more time.”

Wong cares for patients living with HIV, viral hepatitis and addictions.

“Infectious diseases predominantly affect those who are marginalized, who are vulnerable, who society has kind of forgotten about,” Wong said.

Wong said he feels a need to advocate for those who perhaps can’t advocate for themselves.

Read more: Health experts weigh in on Kenney’s hopes to lift Alberta pandemic restrictions by end of March

Asked how people can make decisions when they may not have a “full picture” of the situation and what’s to come, Wong said he understands how tired everyone is.

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“At the same time… it feels like we’ve become an uncaring society when we just allow basically those that don’t have the means to be able to make those decisions for themselves — have the power, the privilege, the finances and the wherewithal to make those types of good decisions.”

“This feels very much like we have kind of given up on them and it just feels hard to accept. I don’t want to accept that,” Wong added.

Hospitalizations continue to climb in Saskatchewan. As of Friday, there are 342 patients in hospital with COVID-19 and 34 in ICU.

Of the 308 people receiving inpatient care, 129 have a COVID-19-related illness, 163 are incidental infections and 16 have not yet been determined. Of the 34 COVID-19 ICU patients, six are considered to have incidental infections.

Two residents are in pediatric/neonatal intensive care units, one has an incidental infection.

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Wong offered some advice for parents who might be worried about sending their kids to school.

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“If you’re in a situation and fortunate enough to have your child be fully vaccinated, able to wear a high-quality mask, ideally a respirator, and be in a well-ventilated setting, then honestly, your child is probably relatively safe.”

Some parents may also want to transition to remote learning for the next few weeks Wong added.

Read more: Saskatchewan organizations react to province’s decision on COVID-19 protocols

He said his own family has been “fortunate enough and privileged enough” to keep their kids home from school and daycare.

“We all make individual choices, but go with what your gut tells you, do the best you can to keep your kids safe,” Wong said.

“At the end of the day, remember that — I don’t want to minimize it, but COVID is relatively minor for the vast majority of kids. If you need to make that decision to have your kid be at school or daycare for your family circumstances, protect them as best you can and be OK with whatever happens.”

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