When High River doctors starting seeing a few cases of COVID-19 in Cargill employees, alarm bells went off. Employees work in close proximity at the Cargill meat processing plant, as well as carpool together, and live in multigenerational homes. All this nearness had health professionals preparing for the worst, based on the news and statistics around the world. Thankfully, outcomes were very different from those originally anticipated.

Cargill employs 2000 workers, and almost half – 936 – tested positive, with 300 living in and around High River and the other 600 cases in Calgary. In High River, nine were hospitalized and sadly, two people died.

CRPCN member physicians followed 488 COVID-positive patients virtually – with 98% cared for exclusively in their home. Other than for a swab, they never saw their doctor face-to-face, which kept them, and others, safe.

Because family doctors know their patients and their histories, and because patients trust their doctors, there were many times that the doctor was able to alleviate patient anxiety, and ensure them a trip to the emergency room was not required. The High River Hospital emergency room never exceeded half of normal capacity, and was frequently far less. The value of the family physician was significant during this outbreak.

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