Rural Alberta hospitalizations jump but it’s not enough to convince some residents of COVID-19 dangers

The province says it's trying to bust the myth that COVID-19 impacts urban centres more than rural municipalities.

To do that, new data was released Monday by Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“This virus doesn't care where we live, or what we believe, anyone and everyone is a potential target for infection,” said Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. 

Since the start of February, Hinshaw says hospitalizations have jumped 26 percent in rural settings, along with a 30 per cent increase in the number ICU patients. 

The province says the North and Central zones are the hardest hit, which are primarily rural. 

Beiseker resident Katie Patterson was visiting a Strathmore park on Monday and says she recently visited that community’s hospital and found it nearly empty. 

“I was recently just at the hospital for some of my own issues and it was pretty quiet,” she said. 

“Logically speaking, more people, more issues it would be in urban areas.” 

Allen Maclennan, a Wheatland County resident, says he does not trust the province’s reporting. 

“We don’t know of anybody in any rural areas that have gotten anything,” he said. 

“We travel hundreds and hundreds of miles all around to different communities on all of our pretty well deserted, phenomenal, Alberta highways.”

But Kenney said on Monday he does not want to make this a rural versus urban debate. He says no one is to blame for the spread of the virus. 

“It's clear that COVID-19 is everywhere in the province and people's lives matter, just as much no matter where they live, (and) where they come from,” he said.

The province says at the start of the pandemic, rural municipalities did see a minor impact with less of a chance to spread the virus, due to smaller populations. 

More than 200 of the current hospitalizations are people from rural areas according to Hinshaw.