'Rage and hopelessness': 2 Newfoundlanders describe living through Alberta's 4th wave of COVID-19
As cases in Alberta spike, 2 Newfoundlanders wish things had been different
As COVID-19 cases in Alberta continue to skyrocket, thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians living in the province are dealing with the fallout.
Alberta has 18,706 active cases, the most of any province, and Premier Jason Kenney has declared a public health emergency.
Two Newfoundlanders who now call Alberta home say the blame for the severity of the fourth wave rests squarely at the feet of the province's political leaders.
"It's almost like a pendulum between rage and hopelessness, because every single morning we wake up in this fourth wave, we know that this was a preventable wave," said Krista Li, originally from Cannings Cove, N.L., in an interview with CBC News. "This is what people are calling the intentionally cruel wave."
On Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the decision to lift nearly all public health restrictions in Alberta in early July set the trajectory for a fourth wave that rapidly spiraled out of control.
On Wednesday, Kenney apologized for his government's decision to treat COVID-19 as endemic rather than as a pandemic early in the summer but later qualified that he was not apologizing for lifting nearly all health restrictions in early July.
For Li, a small business owner with two young children, the apologies are not good enough.
"We will take this to the ballot box because these are our lives at stake here right now," she said.
The fourth wave has resulted in the sharpest increase in ICU patients since the beginning of the pandemic, and hospitals are now being forced to put critically ill patients in non-intensive-care beds.
"If I get sick or if my children get sick, will they even receive care in an Alberta hospital?" she asked.
Li called the hospital protests by anti-vaccine and anti-mask protestors "egregious."
"It is a slap in the face to Albertans … and to Canadians to see protests happening outside of our hospitals where, you know, people are literally dying."
However, she argued that the majority of Albertans understand the science behind COVID-19 and have been following public health protocols.
"I don't know that there is great division. I think a very vocal minority of anti-vax, anti-mask COVID deniers who make up the base support of this government are being pandered to."
Thoughts of home
The Alberta government has begun discussions with other provinces to transfer some COVID-19 patients out of province. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey has offered to send health-care workers to help with the rapidly worsening crisis.
Joanne Greening, also from Cannings Cove and now living in Clairmont, Alta., said she's envious of the way Newfoundland and Labrador handled the pandemic.
"I look at other provinces, and especially Newfoundland, and how much was done to prepare for the pandemic, to stay ahead of this terrible, terrible virus. It seems to be taken so seriously."
Greening said her family travelled to Newfoundland and Labrador over the summer, and she was happy to see people wearing masks even though it wasn't mandated.
"To me, it was beautiful," she said.
Greening, who works as medical office assistant for a gynecologist, said it's been especially troubling to watch her friends in the health-care sector deal with the pandemic and COVID-deniers.
"It was really hard to see them so tired and and then to have people almost spit in their faces, you know?"
She said her son, who is 17, plans to complete his post-secondary education in Newfoundland and Labrador, and she plans to move home too.
"I look forward to that day," she said.
Li said she's still happy to call Alberta home, but life is becoming scarier. She said she knows more and more people getting COVID-19, and the virus now feels "very, very close."
"It's sort of this sense of almost impending doom, like it's inescapable now, and it didn't have to be this way. It absolutely did not have to be this way. In Alberta, it was a choice."
With files from Terry Roberts