By: Greg Staley
On May 11th, 2021 during Premier Kenney’s update on the vaccine rollout, journalist Rick Bell of the Calgary Sun asked the Premier a question that led him to address the question “why can’t we be open like Florida or Texas?” Mr. Bell asked the Premier about ICU capacities and the Premier took the opportunity to explain the difference between Alberta’s situation and that of states like Florida and Texas.
Premier Kenney told reporters:
“I know a lot of Albertans are getting very frustrated watching you know watching tens of thousands of people get together in a football stadium to watch a boxing match in Florida the other night and people partying up uhh and life pretty much back to normal in many of the U.S states. It kind of makes me ticked off too.” The Premier was referring to the Canelo vs Saunders boxing match that had over 70,000 fans in the stands unmasked and not physically distanced.
“First of all, all of those states had, ugh, went into this year with much higher levels of immunity because of higher levels of infection,” the Premier said. “People got anti-bodies which gave them a level of protection. Ugh, you know Texas and those states we estimate at the beginning of March had about a third of their population had gotten Covid, they had the anti-bodies they were protected versus we might be up around 12 percent in Alberta now.”
The Premier continued to say that death rates in the states depending on the state ranged from “3 and 6 times higher than Alberta.” The Premier said, “I don’t think that was a good deal for the Americans that they got a little bit more population protection at the cost of millions of lives.” The second reason the Premier gave for not allowing the province to be open like Texas or Florida was the speed at which the U.S has been rolling out their vaccine compared to Alberta.
Perhaps most shocking was when Premier Kenney all but admitted that America has better healthcare in regards to their ICU capacity. The Premier told reporters that “the Americans have way more hospital capacity. Healthcare is big business in the states. They spend 17 percent of their economy on healthcare we spend 11 percent here and they have redundant capacity because they have a competitive system we have a single-payer system so we have by nature a rationed system.”
The Premier continued his thoughts “what does that mean? That we’re dealing on a good day with 200 ICU beds in Alberta for 4.5 million people and Texas is dealing with 7-8 thousand staffed ICU beds for a population of 29 million. I think that’s 3x the number of per capita ICU beds.
In essence, the United States has ICU capacity they don’t always need (redundant capacity) whereas Alberta, because of socialized medicine rations the healthcare they provide to meet the minimum capacity standards that they expect to be required. This leaves us in Canada with limited ICU capacity in comparison to the United States as the government here only wants “just enough” ICU beds.
The government here in Canada doesn’t want to pay for more ICU beds than necessary but when a bad flu season occurs or a new virus like Covid-19 comes around – the cracks in the system become apparent. Urban centres like Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta are the first to overflow during influenza season. There are reports of overrun hospitals from the flu and other viruses dating back over a decade – check it out here.
Did Lockdown States in U.S fair better than those that opened early or didn’t lock down as hard?
A major crux of Premier Kenney’s argument here appears to be that states like Florida and Texas have higher case fatality rates or CFR from Covid-19 as compared to Alberta. He said that the tradeoff was not a “good deal”. However, that is an unfair comparison to make as our two countries have different medical systems.
Instead, a more accurate comparison would be to take states that were known for harsh lockdowns and compare them to states that opened up early and were against lockdowns – generally speaking. Once we make the appropriate comparison we realize all states, regardless of their approach around lockdowns and restrictions have Case fatality rates higher than Alberta. The irony is that many of the states that opened early or had less restrictions had better CFRs than those that locked their states down heavily like New York and Michigan.
Pro-lockdown/harder lockdown states CFR
*Note the Case fatality rate or CFR is higher than the IFR. The infection fatality rate accounts for all cases whereas CFR accounts for only confirmed cases. IFR is calculated using serology data that searches for antibodies or evidence of past infection.*
The Pro-lockdown list starts off well but as you will see how these states performed had nothing to do with their pro-lockdown stance. The Lancet reported that full lockdowns don’t work in August of 2020. The report said, “Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and widespread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.”
All stats were pulled from the Covid Tracking Project website. Probable cases and deaths were included for all states regardless of their lockdown stance. To learn more about each state and their restrictions please visit this New York Times article.
Pro-lockdown/harder lockdown states CFR
California: 3,301,394 cases and 54,124 deaths CFR = 1.63%
North Carolina: 872,176 cases and 11,502 deaths CFR = 1.31%
Washington: 344,532 cases and 5041 deaths CFR = 1.46%
New York: 1,681,169 cases and 39,026 deaths CFR = 2.32%
New Jersey: 812,609 cases and 23,574 deaths CFR = 2.9%
Michigan: 656,072 cases and 16,658 deaths CFR = 2.53%
Non-Lockdown/opened early and lean more towards less restrictions states
Alabama: 499,819 cases and 10,148 deaths CFR = 2.03%
Georgia: 1,023,487 cases and 17,906 deaths CFR = 1.74%
South Dakota: 113,589 cases and 1900 deaths CFR = 1.67%
Nebraska: 203,026 cases and 2113 deaths CFR = 1.04%
Utah: 374,850 cases and 1976 deaths CFR = 0.52%
Texas: 2,686,818 cases and 44,451 deaths CFR = 1.65%
Florida: 1,909,209 cases and 32,266 deaths CFR = 1.69%
After looking through the stats I think it’s fair to say that lockdown states and non-lockdown states both have states with fluctuating CFR rates. This is indicative that lockdowns aren’t working but that other factors have a greater influence on a state or province’s outcome in dealing with Covid-19.
As Harvard-educated economist Thomas Sowell said in his book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.” In the case of Alberta and Canada, the trade-off has been our mental and physical well-being and our future well-being for the promise of a wee bit more security today.
We have skyrocketed our debt to pay people to stay home and shut down their businesses. We have harmed our children by mandating masking in school and preventing them from seeing their friends and interacting normally as children should. We have not considered any of the consequences of our actions today on our nation’s future well-being – we have made these decisions in a vacuum with the goal of “crushing Covid” as the Prime Minister put it recently.
Despite what Mr. Kenney would have us believe, many of the states that have opened are doing just as well (if not better) as the states who have remained more cautious and kept their restrictions in place. The Case fatality rate from Covid-19 is higher in the United States in general so let us not use that as our justification to stay closed Premier. Utah is open and has a 0.52% CFR – so clearly you hand-selected the data you referenced.
The truth of the matter is that we have rationed healthcare in Canada just as Premier Kenney said. We have halted our entire nation’s lives because we can’t deal with an influx of a few hundred people in any one of our provinces without causing mayhem in the medical system – that’s the fundamental issue here. A decades-old issue has been repackaged to place the blame for inadequate healthcare systems solely on the backs of Albertans and Canadians instead of on those who were in charge of our systems for all this time. All of this done without any foresight as to how these actions affect our nations future.
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