This letter has been submitted to Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin.
As a voting member of your constituency, I am writing to tell you that I am appalled by your most recent missive in the High Country News – "Freedom in a Floundering World."
As my representative, and as someone with a graduate degree from a respected university, I expect a much more scientific and knowledgeable position from you with regards to the pandemic.
Let’s first look at the facts. The coronavirus spread internationally a year ago from China. The mechanism of spread is known to be primarily through the air – droplets and aerosolized, although contact surfaces can also be a source of infection.
The virus can enter the body through the respiratory system or through the eyes. Initially the virus was not very infectious with an R0 of about 2, but viruses mutate as this one has. The new variants of the virus, from the United Kingdom and South Africa, which as of today is reported to have arrived in Alberta, are much more infectious.
Proper coverage of the mouth and nose (masks), regular hand washing, avoiding crowds (especially indoors), and travelling only when it is essential, are the simple, painless, easy, preventative measures that every citizen of the province can undertake – and for the most part have undertaken – with the notable exception of some members of your government.
Long-term immunity can be achieved only when the population achieves "herd immunity," which means about 85-90 per cent of the population having the appropriate level of antibodies to the disease. The only way to achieve that level of immunity is to vaccinate the population.
How has the UCP government done in managing this outbreak? As of this week – on a per capita basis – Alberta, has the second highest number of cases, the second highest mortality rate and the highest rate of hospitalizations of all provinces in Canada.
The health care system is overwhelmed, in part because health care workers in the thousands are falling ill with the virus – two thirds of them contracting the disease in their community (not at their health care institution). Meanwhile the health care system struggles to keep up with the regular health matters of Albertans. Currently the wait list for surgical procedures is over 80,000 patients. How will the system ever clear that backlog?
In your article you confuse individual rights and freedoms with the public good. You talk about gambling away rights and freedoms as if the constitution in Canada has been changed (it has not).
With rights and freedoms come responsibilities. Those of us who believe that there is a collective good that must be served have the right to be protected from those who behave irresponsibly; who willingly spew droplets (and potentially viral particles), by not wearing the appropriate face covering and by joining crowds, both indoors or outside.
You lament the shutting down of the economy, yet proclaim that your government has kept 85 per cent of it open. The only way to ensure that Albertans get working again is to stop the virus from infecting Albertans. One way to do this is to protect essential workers who cannot work from home by enforcing a provincial mandate on face coverings, in addition to the other preventative measures.
The fact that the Edmonton Police Service has charged a number of individuals with aggravated assault for refusing to wear masks and becoming violent about it (including cases of injury to security guards in hospitals) is appalling. You, as a public leader, must look in the mirror and ask yourself how much you have contributed to this by the ridiculous position that you and others in the government have taken about rights and freedoms, never mentioning the responsibility that each individual member of our society has to every other person in society.
The public good is why we have speed limits on our highways and streets; it is why we have pedestrian crosswalks; it is why smoking is banned in restaurants and public spaces. It is why the vast majority of Albertans are on board with the restrictions required and will do their part.
Your comments about vaccinations are further evidence of your complete lack of understanding of basic public health. The rapid development of multiple vaccines over the last year is a remarkable scientific achievement. And yet you vow never to make vaccines mandatory. How is the pandemic to be defeated if there is not immunity to the virus?
Why will you not accept the reality that a non-vaccinated person becomes a threat to the general population by potentially being a carrier and spreader of the virus? True, there are members of the public who will not be able to be vaccinated because of the risk of an allergic reaction, because of the risk of an auto-immune disorder and, at this point, it is unknown if the vaccines are safe in pregnant women.
The downturn in Alberta’s economy has been devastating. Bleak economic prospects have in all probability contributed to the horrific rise in suicide rates in this province. There were more suicide deaths in 2020 than people that died from the virus.
However, much of what has happened in the economy occurred because of forces beyond the control of the UCP government. What your government must do is focus on what it can do something about. To return to the traffic analogy, when we drive through a construction site, the safety of the workers becomes paramount – as it should. Speed limits are reduced to 30-50 km per hour, and fines for infringement double (as they should).
Why is it that your government has lost its focus in this pandemic and instead of fighting the disease is parroting rights and freedom arguments mostly tied to the American Constitution. How about speaking to the responsibilities we all have for choosing to live in this great province, and enacting measures that have been proven to work in other jurisdictions outside of North America.
You mention the pride that you feel in what your government has accomplished. Someone once wrote that "pride goeth before the fall." You and your government can do a whole lot better.
Ann and Ed Kerwin,