Alberta Premier Jason Kenney once again stressed that any future COVID-19 restrictions in the province will be based on data, not political pressure. This comes one day after Alberta set a record for the number of new cases identified in one day.
On Wednesday, Alberta reported 406 new cases of COVID-19, the first time the province has surpassed 400 new daily cases since the pandemic began.
“We are obviously concerned about the growing number of active cases in the province and with the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 and that’s why we ask Albertans really to take this seriously,” Kenney said.
“The virus is here to stay and unless or until there is widespread immunity either through natural infection or through the widespread use of the vaccine, we have to cope with it and we have to carry on with life.”
Kenney made the comments Thursday morning while self-isolating at home after he learned Wednesday a close contact, Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, received a positive coronavirus test result. Kenney was tested Wednesday and said his results came back negative.
Kenney was scheduled to address the legislature about the state of COVID-19 in Alberta Wednesday following question period, but was instead hurried into self-isolation.
When asked Thursday about what the speech would entail, the premier spoke about Alberta’s overall success with responding to the pandemic so far.
Kenney said the province has not come anywhere near the infection and hospitality rate it anticipated in the spring, when modelling suggested the province could see as many as 800,000 total infections by the summer.
“Here’s the reality, we’ve done well, not perfectly, but we’ve done well with a less restrictive approach and I believe we can continue to protect the health-care system without widespread disruptions and lockdowns that have massive broader consequences,” he said.
“Part of what we are doing here is looking at the broader health context. Yes, physiological health but also mental and emotional, social and economic health. These things are all linked and so we’re taking that broader view.
“I would reiterate that our primary goal here is to prevent the health-care system from being overwhelmed.”
Kenney said the province’s economy must also be factored into the pandemic response, given the paralleled drop in energy prices. He pointed to the hospitality industry as one taking a particular beating over the past several months.
“We see other jurisdictions across Canada, around the world once again hammering the hospitality sector,” Kenney said.
“The third largest employer industry in the province is the restaurant industry and thousands of our restaurants — many have already closed — and thousands of others are barely hanging on and could not survive another lockdown.”
He said moving forward, any restrictions — mandatory or voluntary — would be based on health data and the advice of public health officials.
“We cannot completely exclude the possibility of targeted, limited restrictions in the future if we determine the case load could begin to jeopardize the health-care system. But if we do that it will be based, not on a hunch, not on political pressure, but on data,” he stressed.
“What I’m suggesting is, when it comes to any potential future restrictions, they will be limited, discreet, targeted and focused based on data, not indiscriminate policies that shut down and impair entire segments of our economy.”
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Thursday afternoon the response to COVID-19 is not easy, and there is no one path that is the right path all the time.
“I think what we’re looking at now, as I said earlier, is monitoring our acute-care system, monitoring the impact of COVID cases in those that need hospital care and understanding — again as we’re seeing these trends and cases — what we might see in the coming weeks as we know that hospitalizations and ICUs are a lagging indicator,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
“Any action that we take has consequences both positive and negative and those are things we do need to weigh out. So we are watching, as I said, very carefully. We appreciate the perspectives that are shared by stakeholders and again, there’s no one perfect path and we’re doing our best to balance COVID-19 impacts and the impact of restrictions and trying to find the best path forward that helps us to minimize both of those kinds of harms.”
Health Minister Tyler Shandro also stressed Thursday that any restrictions put in place are done based on advice from public health officials.
“The voluntarily measures were the recommendation of our public health officials, it was not an idea that was dreamed up by a politician.”
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