Alberta premier tests negative for COVID-19, will still self-isolate after minister tests positive

Click to play video: 'Jason Kenney isolating after cabinet minister and close contact tests positive for COVID-19' Jason Kenney isolating after cabinet minister and close contact tests positive for COVID-19
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is isolating at home after Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard tested positive for COVID-19 – Oct 21, 2020

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he has tested negative for COVID-19 but will continue to self-isolate after a close contact, Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, received a positive test result Wednesday.

Allard recently had a close contact test positive and has been isolating since getting the news on the weekend, the premier’s office said in a statement.

Allard, who is also the MLA for Grande Prairie, has not been in the Alberta legislature since the new session began.

“My understanding is that Minister Allard began exhibiting symptoms on Friday of last week. She attended a press conference with me on Thursday morning of last week. She seemed in good health and she apparently was not exhibiting any symptoms,” Kenney said Thursday.

“She did the right thing. The moment she exhibited symptoms on Friday she self-isolated and she got tested and that test result come back yesterday afternoon.”

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Read more: Alberta politicians to focus on economic recovery as legislature resumes Tuesday

Allard is “currently at home with mild symptoms,” the statement from the premier’s office said.

Allard’s close contacts are being notified, told to isolate and to be tested. One of those close contacts is the premier.

“The premier immediately entered self-isolation upon being notified of Minister Allard’s positive test, as he is a close contact of Minister Allard’s,” deputy press secretary Harrison Fleming wrote.

“Despite not showing any symptoms, the premier is currently being tested out of an abundance of caution.”

On Wednesday evening, Kenney issued a statement saying he was tested for the coronavirus in the afternoon and the results came back negative.

“I am feeling healthy, and am not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms,” he said, adding that he will remain in self-isolation at his home in Edmonton until the afternoon of Oct. 29, in accordance with public health guidelines that require people “who have come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 (to) self-isolate for 14 days following the time of exposure.”

Kenney said he plans to continue to work from home as he self-isolates.

“I wish Minister Allard, and all of those infected by COVID-19, a successful recovery,” he added. “And I would like to thank, once again, our health care personnel for doing such great work under these challenging circumstances.”

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Earlier Wednesday, Kenney was speaking in the legislature during question period.

“I was informed about this just after having left question period at about 3:05 p.m. in the afternoon yesterday. So I think officials in the government were informed by Minister Allard just minutes before that,” Kenney said Thursday.

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“In terms of the legislature generally, the legislature was not in session last week so Minister Allard was not a close contact of any legislature employees last week. The legislature does have protocols in place. We are operating on a reduced quorum basis with people who are social distancing in the chamber and trying to follow all of the public health guidelines as carefully as possible.”

Click to play video: 'UCP and Alberta NDP debate economy recovery plan as Legislature session resumes' UCP and Alberta NDP debate economy recovery plan as Legislature session resumes
UCP and Alberta NDP debate economy recovery plan as Legislature session resumes – Oct 20, 2020

The premier’s office said it is not currently aware of any close contacts of Allard’s showing symptoms.

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Transportation Minister Ric McIver, as well as MLAs Angela Pitt, Peter Guthrie and Nathan Neudorf are also self-isolating, as they had interactions with Allard last week. None are currently showing symptoms.

Kenney said it is his understanding that those caucus members are also undergoing testing.

During a virtual news conference on Thursday, McIver said he had not yet been tested and was waiting “along with other Albertans and I know that I have to wait my turn” for AHS to call him back and book a COVID-19 test.

“I’m looking forward to getting my test and I will make the results of that test known after it happens.”

Alberta’s top doctor Deena Hinshaw clarified Thursday that there is a small list of provincial officials for whom expedited COVID-19 testing has been approved. She said the premier is on list and she was also offered sped-up testing and results when she was symptomatic. Having a small list of critical people who receive expedited testing is done in other jurisdictions as well, Hinshaw said.

Read more: Alberta legislature to resume Wednesday with COVID-19 work, other bills, sitting into July

Allard was not symptomatic when interacting with her close contacts last week, the premier’s office said.

“Chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw has been and will continue to be consulted on the response,” the statement read.

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“Under current protocols, only Minister Allard’s close contacts are required to self-isolate. If one of Minister Allard’s close contacts begins to show symptoms and/or tests positive, then that individual’s close contacts would subsequently need to self-isolate.”

Read more: CDC redefines what counts as close contact for coronavirus, adds short encounters

Government spokesperson Christine Myatt said Allard is the only member of the UCP caucus who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The press secretary for Erin O’Toole said the federal Conservative Party leader was not isolating. O’Toole sat next to Kenney during a livestream on Saturday. Neither leader wore a mask.

The UCP held a virtual annual general meeting from Nobleford, Alta., over the weekend, and O’Toole said he stopped by for a visit because he was in the province and on his way to meet with cattle industry representatives.

“Mr. O’Toole is not currently isolating, as Premier Kenney is showing no symptoms and Mr. O’Toole is a contact of a contact. We will continue to follow public health advice and wish Minister Allard well in her recovery,” spokesperson Chelsea Tucker told Global News.

Read more: O’Toole and Kenney sit side-by-side for UCP general meeting livestream with no masks

The Opposition sent out a statement wishing Allard a speedy recovery.

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“We also are very much hoping that her close contacts ultimately test negative for COVID-19, including, of course, Premier Kenney as well as Minister McIver and MLAs Pitt, Neudorf and Guthrie,” leader Rachel Notley said.

“We also recognize the Legislative Assembly plays a vital role in ensuring the safety of Albertans through this pandemic as well as in promoting an economic recovery for the future.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to work with the government to establish enhanced safety protocols and we remain willing to negotiate meaningful strategies to achieve this.”

Read more: Alberta adds 406 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, 3 additional deaths

The City of Airdrie said Wednesday evening that members of its city council as well as staff were also isolating following Allard’s diagnosis.

“Minister Allard was in Airdrie on Oct. 15, 2020 for a provincial funding announcement and meetings,” the city said in a Facebook post.

“Those that may have been in close contact during that time, including members of city council and staff, have been notified and are following all AHS protocols for self-isolation and testing.”

Read more: QEII Highway: new interchange to be built at 40 Avenue in Airdrie

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Anyone who believes they were in contact with Allard during her visit to Airdrie was asked to contact 811.

On Wednesday, Alberta Health reported another 406 cases of COVID-19, marking a new daily high for the province.

According to the latest numbers, there are 3,372 active cases across the province.

Alberta Health reported three new deaths as well, bringing Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll to 296.

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