The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has arrived in Canada, and Saskatchewan is expected to start distributing this week.
But some are concerned the news is giving some residents a false sense of security, leading them to let their guard down as the pandemic continues.
Matthew McLaughlin, a bar manager in downtown Saskatoon, said he has noticed that more people are walking through his employer’s doors, and that customers have been acting more complacent in the last week.
“Whether it be a few people being rather reluctant to give contact information at the door, or not wearing masks properly when they enter the business, or not putting them on when they’re getting up to go to the restroom,” McLaughlin said.
Over the weekend, McLaughlin inquired about his customers’ evening plans.
“All but one table that was around for the entire evening were barhopping, going from place to place. And that rather upset me,” McLaughin said.
“I completely want people to be out and supporting businesses. But you can do that and still limit your contacts and still be responsible to everyone around you.”
McLaughlin says news of the COVID-19 vaccine’s arrival in Canada seems to be giving some Saskatoon customers a sense that things are returning to normal.
“It has definitely brought a lot of hope to people.”
McLaughlin says that complacency is “coming down from on top” — citing what he calls a lack of proper messaging around COVID-19 from the province.
25 to 30 per cent increase in traffic
Dale McKay, co-owner of Grassroots Restaurant Group in Saskatoon, has also seen a spike in customer traffic.
“We definitely didn’t mind because obviously the last three weeks to a month especially have been really, really difficult with the new restrictions,” said McKay.
McKay estimates at least a 25 to 30 per cent increase in customers in his restaurants. However, he says it’s difficult to gauge why that is.
The two weekends before Christmas are typically the busiest of the year for McKay’s company.
“It could be that or it could be the fact that people are seeing that people are being vaccinated,” McKay said.
“But I think that would be pretty pedestrian kind of thinking, given the fact we all know that it doesn’t work like that. And obviously we need a massive percentage of the population to be vaccinated before any real normality is going to come back.”
What the history books will read
Kyle Anderson, an assistant professor of biochemistry, microbiology and immunology at the University of Saskatchewan, says he also is hearing of growing complacency in Saskatoon.
Anderson offers up a sports analogy to best explain where Saskatchewan is right now in the fight against COVID-19.
“You don’t stop running through the tape and celebrate too early. There is case after case of people losing championships and gold medals because they thought they had reached the end, and then they stopped trying,” said Anderson.
He says he doesn’t want Saskatchewan to become an example of a place that handled this portion of the pandemic poorly.
“Ten years from now, the history books will be written about COVID and there will be those cautionary tales of the cities, the provinces, the countries that just gave up and thought, ‘you know what, we tried our best and we can’t try any harder,'” Anderson said.
“And people will forever be sort of ashamed as those were the communities that just couldn’t work together for that common goal of trying to keep everyone safe and alive for just the next six months until we can all be vaccinated.”
Anderson says Saskatchewan is currently reporting 100 cases per week in people aged 80 and older, and approximately 250 cases per week in those 60 to 80-years-old.
“We are going to have with fairly good certainty another 100 deaths between now and New Year’s [Eve]. That is too much for our health-care workers to have to try and fight to save those lives. It’s too much for the families that are going to lose those individuals before Christmas,” Anderson said.
Anderson says it will be nine months until the majority of Saskatchewan residents are vaccinated, if they choose to do so.
He says that even though Saskatchewan’s case count seems to be levelling out, our goal should not be to plateau but to drive the numbers down as much as possible.
“Because that’s going to get us to that better economic outlook. That’s going to get us our tourism industry coming back faster in the summer, our building industry, our hospitality restaurants, all of the retail,” said Anderson.
“All of that will come back faster and stronger the harder we go right now to try and drop our case numbers. Because that is what is going to, once we do have vaccination, ensure that we’re all safe and we can all just enjoy ourselves again.”
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