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How To Not Drown in the Second Wave (COVID-19 and Tele-Rehab 2.0)

When we started this project in 2019, we never could have imagined how relevant virtual care would become in so short a time. At the beginning, we were struggling to convince the system that virtual care was a valid option. But after COVID-19 forced everyone to isolate and virtual care became our only option for weeks, we saw buy-in to a virtual care model like we never could have imagined.

Unfortunately, as the pandemic has progressed and many in-person services have become available again (with safety measures in place), emphasis on virtual care has again diminished. Much of the support and funding that was available in April and May has been allocated, with no indication of further support forthcoming. We are afraid that this means we have missed the opportunity to develop quality virtual services for rural and remote Albertans who are being underserved by our current system. It also places Albertans at greater risk of infection, especially as we move towards a potential “second wave”.

According to Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, there is no single definition of what a second wave looks like. Generally a second wave is thought of as a rapid spike in cases that continues to grow exponentially and causes potential threat to the healthcare system.

The term “second-wave” basically means that the spread of COVID-19 is out of control, and will likely result in a second shutdown. We’ve already seen second shutdowns in Ontario, Quebec, and parts of Manitoba as a result of second wave-style spikes in cases.

Daily counts have continued to increase throughout Alberta, but fortunately numbers of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and active cases have remained relatively stable. However, a professor within the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health says Alberta’s higher plateau of case numbers is concerning when compared to second waves in Europe.

This morning’s update has provided us with Friday’s numbers - Saturday and Sunday updates will be released later today. Alberta reported over 330 new cases Friday, an increase of 98 active cases. Around 9% of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are currently in intensive care.

Edmonton is still a hotspot for active COVID-19 cases, sitting at 1525 active cases as of Friday. (Needless to say, our team is going to continue to have no social lives and stay holed up at home!)

As active cases continue to rise, hospital numbers are reaching a new high, and health officials are keeping close eye on hospital capacity. At the University of Alberta Hospital’s Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, 3 cardiology patients have tested positive for COVID-19.

If hospital outbreaks are not enough to worry about, there are now 99 schools that have active COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta. 22 more schools have also been moved to a watch list due to having 5 or more cases. In-school transmission has happened at 61 schools. We aren’t even 2 months into the school year, so this number of cases is significant.

Although Alberta is seeing a rise in cases, Hinshaw says we are not yet seeing a second-wave here yet. Alberta seems to be more in a transition stage between waves. But this doesn’t mean we aren’t at risk of seeing a second wave soon. It may feel like we are at the beginning of this second wave, but we’re not. Not yet. The future is in the hands of Albertans.

In light of the reality we are facing, it is important to keep working on options to support Albertans in the event of a second shutdown. The immediacy of this threat is strong, and our team is struggling with the lack of support we are seeing for many programs that could help mitigate the effects that a second shutdown would have on Albertans. Instead of seeing systemic support, responsibility has been shifted to individual Albertans to prevent the spread.

Programs such as Tele-Rehab 2.0 can enhance the effect of this individual responsibility and help reduce the spread even further. This program allows clinics and businesses to stay open while still minimizing risk to all involved. Tele-Rehab 2.0 can serve Albertans both before and during a second wave.

Our current program comes to an end on December 31, and we are exploring every possible avenue to keep this platform going. We can help support Albertans through a second wave, and we can help keep rural Albertans in their home communities, giving them much needed access to services and reducing the spread.

Tele-Rehab 2.0 is in need of support, so that we can support all Albertans. We’ll keep asking for help until the last possible second. We won’t give up. Please reach out to us if you can help, and stay safe.

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