Thanksgiving holiday plagued with fatigue, risk of COVID-19 spread again for Alberta

As families may be planning for Thanksgiving weekend, one expert says a big challenge for Albertans will be coping with the fatigue of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Doctors urge caution heading into weekend

Vendors at the Bountiful Farmers Market in south Edmonton sell turkeys and goods last year. (Travis McEwan/CBC )

UPDATE: On Oct. 5, the province announced that the limit on private outdoor gatherings has been lowered to 20 people, down from 200, with physical distancing to be maintained between people from different households.

As families may be planning for Thanksgiving weekend, one expert says a big challenge for Albertans will be enjoying the holiday while coping with the fatigue of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr. Ganz Ferrance, a clinical psychologist in Edmonton, said while some are tired of following rules and being separated from friends and family, most people are tired of keeping up with changing measures. 

"One of the most difficult things for us to deal with as humans is uncertainty," Ferrance said. "So when things are not clean — we don't feel like we have a sense of control or predictability — that's extremely exhausting and very stressful."

The concept is called "change fatigue," Ferrance said. 

This Thanksgiving holiday is more difficult than last year, he suggested, in part because the pandemic has been going on for so long. 

"But then also there's sort of, 'Are we opening, are we not opening? What can we do? What can we not do?'" Ferrance said.

Changing measures

Alberta's current guidelines allow vaccinated people to gather indoors, but with limits. The rules permit indoor gatherings of no more than two households to a maximum of 10 vaccinated people. There are no restrictions on children under 12.

Indoor social gatherings are not permitted for vaccine-eligible people who are unvaccinated.

Up to 200 people can gather outdoors with two-metre physical distancing measures in effect at all times.

The government introduced the latest restrictions Sept. 20, as cases continued to rise and hospitals became more overwhelmed. 

For the past two weeks, restaurants and entertainment venues like theatres, galleries and bowling alleys have been able to ask patrons for proof of vaccination, which allows establishments to operate at full capacity. 

The government introduced this as the Restrictions Exemption Program, in lieu of a formal vaccine passport program. 

Some venues, such as wellness and personal services, libraries and retail stores, are not eligible to participate in the program.

People in all public venues must wear masks now — a different reality from the government's Open for Summer plan that lifted nearly all measures on July 1.

On Oct. 12, 2020, Alberta had just under 2,550 active COVID-19 cases. 

People gathered over the Thanksgiving holiday last year, and cases rose to 4,679 by Oct. 26, kicking off the second wave of the pandemic in the province.

On Monday, Alberta recorded 20,674 active cases, with nearly 5,000 in Edmonton alone. 

Emergency room doctors and infectious disease specialists have been sounding the alarm bells for weeks, urging the government to limit social activity. 

Expect a spike: doctor

Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury, a critical care specialist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, said he's concerned about how things will look two weeks after Thanksgiving.

"We can expect some sort of spike thereafter," Chowdhury said in an interview Monday. 

The degree of the spread will reflect whether unvaccinated people gather contrary to restrictions, he said. 

Fully vaccinated people, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, are still at risk, Chowdhury said.

About 25 per cent of the patients in hospital — 10 per cent in ICU — are double vaccinated. 

"I do worry about people's grandparents and people's elderly parents," Chowdhury said. "You have to be careful— these are precautions that I take with my own family."

Control what you can

Ferrance recommends keeping the future in mind when deciding how to celebrate holidays in the near and mid-term, so society can recover from the pandemic. 

People can do this by limiting the number of people gathering this weekend, he said.  

Proactively creating an environment of predictability will help offset the uncertainty that continues to occur, Ferrance said. 

"Seek control and stability where you can, so you can leave that adaptation ability for the stuff that is coming — because we just don't know." 


With files from Tricia Kindleman


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