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COVID-19: How much of Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s public health advice factored into recent restrictions?

Click to play video 'Alberta NDP calls on Alberta government to release Dr. Hinshaw’s full recommendations' Alberta NDP calls on Alberta government to release Dr. Hinshaw’s full recommendations
WATCH ABOVE: Calling for a look at what exactly Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw advised the Kenney government, the Opposition NDP says the UCP needs to show stronger leadership. NDP health critic David Shepherd joined the noon news to talk about that, and also called on the government to prioritize contact tracing. – Nov 25, 2020

The Alberta NDP is calling for the full list of Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s recent public health recommendations to cabinet, as it questioned how much the UCP factored them into the new COVID-19 restrictions announced Tuesday.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health was asked repeatedly on Wednesday whether cabinet accepted all the recommendations she presented in an eight-hour session Monday, however Hinshaw did not give a clear answer.

Read more: Alberta enacts 2nd COVID-19 state of public health emergency. Here’s what it means

When asked what recommendations, if any, were rejected, Hinshaw would only say her “recommendations have always been respectfully considered in the final decisions.”

“As you know, it’s my role to make recommendations and provide options with the advantages and disadvantages.

“It is also my role to be focused on the public health and preventive medicine expertise that I bring,” she continued.

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Alberta identifies 1,115 new COVID-19 cases and 16 additional coronavirus deaths on Tuesday – Nov 24, 2020

“And then it is the role of cabinet to make the extremely difficult decisions about how to take that information and include, along with it all of the other considerations that must be brought to bear on these very impactful decisions.”

When asked to provide a “yes or no” answer on whether she recommended stricter measures to cabinet, Hinshaw would only say her recommendations included “a broad range of options.”

“There were different components to those and the recommendations again, were respectfully considered within those final decisions that were taken,” Hinshaw said.

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‘Alberta is not involved in a chase after zero’: Kenney explains why there aren’t harsher COVID-19 restrictions – Nov 24, 2020

Hinshaw was then pressed again, and asked why she believes it’s in the public’s interest to not be transparent about advice given to the government that has been rejected.

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“I want to be clear that my role is set out in legislation.

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“The role that I have is to provide recommendations to the minister to promote and protect the health of Albertans and to prevent disease and injury. And that is a role that I take very seriously.

“And as I mentioned earlier, the recommendations that I made were in the series of options for consideration,” she said in response.

“The questions about all of the different factors that go into the final outcome is really critical that elected officials be the ones to make final decisions because there are public health considerations, there are other considerations such as the wishes and values of the population who elected leaders to make decisions on their behalf.

“So it is appropriate that elected leaders make final decisions and I take my role, which is to provide those recommendations to the minister and his colleagues, very seriously and do the best job that I can in that role.”

Read more: Changes to visitation in certain AHS facilities announced as Alberta reaches 500 COVID-19 deaths

In a Wednesday news release, the NDP called for Premier Jason Kenney to release all of Hinshaw’s recommendations, “including the public health measures he refused to implement.”

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“Jason Kenney is clearly hiding public health advice from Albertans,” Opposition NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said.

“It’s obvious that the small package of half-measures Kenney announced yesterday were all that he could convince the extremist fringe of his caucus to accept. Albertans have the right to hear Dr. Hinshaw’s unfiltered, professional advice and judge Kenney’s decisions for themselves.

“If Jason Kenney really is putting into force all the public health advice he’s getting, then I say prove it.”

The NDP went on to say Kenney didn’t take meaningful action to mandate face masks, and said the restriction on indoor gatherings is “packed with complicated exemptions.”

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Alberta Grade 7-12 students moving to at-home learning, younger grades to follow in December – Nov 24, 2020

The government’s move to “abruptly” shift the school year online for students in Grades 7 to 12 was another measure the Opposition took issue with, saying it presented a safe school re-entry plan months ago that would have negated the need to take students out of the classrooms.

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Read more: COVID-19: Hinshaw says Albertans should know government supported her back-to-school recommendations

The NDP also took issue with the data that went into Tuesday’s health measures, saying that without a properly functioning contact-tracing system, “it’s impossible to develop effective, targeted measures.”

In an emailed statement, Kenney’s office said it would not publicly release Hinshaw’s recommendations.

“Alberta’s government will continue to work with CMOH Dr. Hinshaw, and other public health experts to protect lives and livelihoods,” press secretary Christine Myatt said.

“In a democracy, the burden of decision-making ultimately falls to the duly-elected leadership.”

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COVID-19: Alberta makes masks mandatory in all indoor workplaces in Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding areas – Nov 24, 2020

Wednesday was not the first time Hinshaw has been questioned on how much of her advice is accepted and put into action by the provincial government, and in the beginning of her Wednesday update, she acknowledged that people have questioned her role in the implementation of new restrictions.

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“Under the Public Health Act, as chief medical officer of health, I advise the government on its public health recommendations. For many decisions, I present a range of policy options to government officials, outlining what I believe is the recommended approach, and the strengths and weaknesses of any alternatives,” Hinshaw said.

“The final decisions are made by cabinet.

“As I have said in the past, I have always felt respected and listened to and that my recommendations have been respectfully considered by policy makers when making their decisions.”