Third wave of COVID-19 didn't have to hit so hard, microbiologist says
Jason Tetro says overconfidence following vaccines may be contributing to spread
If people had listened to the advice of medical professionals and government officials when coronavirus variants first presented, the third wave may have rolled a little softer in Saskatchewan, says Jason Tetro, author of The Germ Code and The Germ Files.
"We're in it now," microbiologist and author Tetro told Saskatchewan Weekend's Shauna Powers about the third wave currently hitting the province.
"It's pretty simple — and it's hard to say this — but because of the variants, we needed to reduce our contact by an additional 10 to 15 per cent over what we're doing in previous lockdowns," said Tetro. "But because of the vaccines, we apparently added 10 to 15 percent of our contacts thinking everything is going to be fine."
"That 30 per cent divergence has led to the basically that explosion of growth that we've been seeing, especially in urban areas," said Tetro. "And we all know what's going on in Regina."
On Saturday alone, Saskatchewan added 262 more cases of COVID-19, three more deaths and indicated a total of 6,999 cases of variants of concern had been identified in the province as of April 30.
Many of the cases with confirmed lineage are the B1117 variant — which make up 2,491 of the confirmed cases, or 35 per cent — with the Regina zone accounting for 66 per cent of the variant cases with confirmed lineage.
Tetro explained while he wishes the third wave could have been prevented, now that it's here, it's taking a heavy toll — not only in populations who are vulnerable, but even in those who have been less susceptible to severe infection in the past.
"In the first wave, we were talking about mothers and our grandmothers and our grandfathers," he said. "Now, we're talking about our best friends."
Tetro stressed while there may be instances where people feel less vulnerable to the virus because of the large scale vaccinations underway, but he says people cannot let their guard down just yet.
"After you get the shot, you need a minimum of 15 days — I would suggest even waiting 21 days — before you can say that I have enough protection against having severe infection," he said, noting this holds true for provincial restrictions as well.
"Even after we reach that elimination threshold, what people like to call herd immunity, we still need to wait 28 days," he said, calling vaccinations, a path "toward the end, not the end."
Tetro says while hindsight is always 20/20, had there been a more focused approach taken as the second wave continued — as opposed to what he called a "mix and match" approach, with too many people saying they had to ride it out until vaccination was widespread — there was no need to get caught up in the third wave to begin with.
"If we had basically stuck with the whole idea of the lockdowns to get to elimination, we wouldn't have gone through this," he said.
"Before you know it, we had this sort of knitted quilt concept, as opposed to a very strict, harmonized regulation, and that in itself kind of put us in a situation where we are today."
As of Sunday morning, a total of 494 people in the province have died from COVID-19.
With files from Saskatchewan Weekend