Councillor in northern Alberta county shares Facebook post asking people not to get tested for coronavirus

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An elected public official in northern Alberta says he shared a Facebook post calling on people to stop getting tests for the novel coronavirus because he does not believe knowing how many people are positive will help win the fight against the pandemic.

“What are we going to gain from getting tested?” Mackenzie County councillor Peter Braun told Global News on Wednesday night. “Just stay home. Isn’t that the best medicine?

“If you’re sick, you stay home.”

READ MORE: Alberta confirms 171 new COVID-19 cases 

Braun shared the post on a private Facebook page but one where he does identify himself as a councillor.

He asked how Global News was able to see that he shared the post. Global News became aware of the post after people reached out to express concern with Braun sharing such a message. The post suggests not getting tested “unless its (SIC) absolutely necessary for your work.”

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“You do realize you are adding to the problem and taking us into a second phase of lockdown,” reads part of the post. “YOU are giving the government the number of cases and the powers to take us into a winter lockdown?

“Just stop the testing and this will disappear overnight.”

The post also argues that if people are well enough to get to a testing site, then “your (SIC) absolutely fine.”

A screenshot of a Facebook post shared by Mackenzie County councillor Peter Braun. Supplied to Global News

READ MORE: How rapid coronavirus testing could help Canada flatten the curve 

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Watch below: Some Global News videos about testing for the coronavirus.

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Health experts have stressed the importance of testing in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and noted it’s also a way of identifying asymptomatic cases, where people don’t exhibit symptoms of the illness.

Although Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, have repeatedly emphasized the importance of a rigorous testing regime to identify cases and contact people at risk, Braun said he did not believe testing is that important.

READ MORE: Donation to help Alberta expand COVID-19 testing capacity to 16,000 a day by June 

“I thought the main thing was to stay home when you’re sick,” he said, acknowledging that COVID-19 is something to be careful about.

“We should do the distancing and stuff but I don’t think it’s the end all,” he said. “There’s more to life than just staying home and if you’re sick you should be staying home just like always.”

According to the province’s COVID-19 website, as of Wednesday, Mackenzie County ranks third in Alberta for the number of active COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. The area currently has 60 active cases despite only having a population just over 24,000 people.

“What are we going to gain by knowing how many people are positive?” Braun asked, adding that while nobody deserves to die, his understanding is that the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths are linked to people with underlying health conditions.”

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Another section of the post argues that some elderly people may die because of COVID-19 restrictions that limit their interaction with others because the restrictions will negatively impact their mental health. Hinshaw has repeatedly said that the province acknowledges the importance of balancing restrictions with mental health needs and that her team works to strike the right balance with every decision made.

At a news conference in Edmonton on Thursday, Hinshaw was asked about the post shared by Braun. She said that without a solid testing regime, the novel coronavirus would spread quickly and broadly, particularly among people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, the virus persists whether or not we test for it, and when we don’t know where the virus is, it gives it the opportunity to spread rapidly,” she said, adding she has not personally seen the post Braun shared.

“Testing is a tool that enables us to best understand where the virus is spreading.”

Braun did not say who wrote the Facebook post that he shared.

READ MORE: Mackenzie County reeve criticizes COVID-19 restrictions, says coronavirus has turned people into ‘gutless sheep’ 

The Facebook share is not the first a member of Mackenzie County council has taken to social media to signal concern about the province’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Reeve Josh Knelsen said he believes public health measures are taking too much of a toll on people who can’t work or socialize with family and friends.

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Watch below: Some Global News videos about coronavirus tests in Alberta.

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