November 25th, 2020

Local physician pens letter to Premier Kenney urging halt to further restrictions

By GILLIAN SLADE on November 21, 2020.

gslade@medicinehatnews.com@MHNGillianSlade

A local physician is urging the provincial government not to invoke any further COIVD-19 restrictions.

Dr. Bao Dang, internal medicine and respirology, sent a letter to Premier Jason Kenney saying he is opposed to a lockdown.

“I am aware that many of my colleagues lately have written to you and very publicly demanded re-instituting lockdowns and putting in ‘circuit breakers’. I am vehemently opposed to these attempts,” Dang’s letter reads. “They are not only unnecessary but they are ineffective and will extract even greater harm to Albertans.”

On Nov. 10 The Canadian Press reported that 174 Alberta physicians wrote a letter to Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Kenney asking for more to be done to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“If the rate of COVID-19 spread continues, the consequences to the people of Alberta will be catastrophic,” wrote the doctors. “The province should consider a two-week, short, sharp lockdown, or ‘circuit breaker’ to drop the effective reproductive number and allow contact tracing to catch up.”

Dang has been in medical practice locally for 12 years including at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital. In the last seven months, he says several patients he has seen have avoided seeking medial attention due to fear of COVID-19. He says lockdowns and restrictions instill unreasonable fear.

He tells Kenney, “You yourself have astutely noted that 99 per cent of infected patients survive, the average age of death is above that of life expectancy and the majority of patients recover at home with little or no symptoms.”

Of the 42,797 confirmed cases by Friday morning, there have been 451 deaths, which is a one per cent death rate.

“This is not the bubonic plague or SARS or even H1N1. This is a serious but manageable infection that should be treated with a measured approach while taking into considerations that there are other health problems just as pressing but being neglected,” said Dang.

Restrictions have been harmful with increased deaths in overdoses, suicides, abuse and depression, said Dang.

He also questions the effectiveness of masks calling them “arbitrary gestures to give officials a false sense of control,” claiming it could invoke a sense of invincibility for the public. Edmonton and Calgary have enforced mask wearing for months but are experiencing the highest numbers of infection.

“Medicine Hat, which has had no mandatory mask rules has been spared.”

The province has not mandated the use of masks. Hinshaw herself can be seen wearing a mask, when doing COVID updates.

On Nov. 19 The Canadian Press reported that NDP leader Rachel Notley had questioned Health Minister Tyler Shandro on the patchwork of mask rules.

“Masks help stop the spread,” she said.

Dang believes COVID-19 is behaving like other respiratory viruses like influenza, with seasonal variation and winters being worse.

His advice to Kenney is to encourage those infected to stay at home, to safeguard the elderly and immunocompromised .

“COVID-19 is not going away – we will have to live with it like we live with influenza,” said Dang. “Perhaps a vaccine will be available soon but that is not the cure all – we have had vaccines for influenza for a long time but we still have deaths and disease from that but we don’t lock down society indefinitely.”

Dang says an early model of what we could expect in the spring had Alberta prepared for 500 hospital cases. There are currently 310 hospitalizations for COVID, an increase of 26 in the past day.

While many physicians have different views than his, Dang says many also recognize that the current approach is not working.

Alberta Health responded to a request for comment from Kenney.

Steve Buick, press secretary, says the government respects the different views of physicians and other experts. The government is taking a “balanced approach” aimed at saving both lives and livelihoods, on the advice of Hinshaw.

If current measures are not effective there will be more. A lockdown will be used as a last resort.

“At this point we believe it would do more harm,” said Buick.

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