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Will Alberta have COVID-19 restrictions added back? Here’s what officials have to say

Click to play video: 'Variants could make 3rd wave the worst yet: new COVID-19 modelling' Variants could make 3rd wave the worst yet: new COVID-19 modelling
Alberta recorded 325 new variant cases in the last 24 hours. New federal modelling shows variants are a big concern and the data suggests if we don't reduce our contacts, a third wave will be worse than anything we've seen so far. Fletcher Kent reports – Mar 26, 2021

While many Albertans expected the province to move into Step 3 of the COVID-19 reopening plan, officials didn’t budge and kept the province in Step 2.

Step 3 would have allowed things like indoor gatherings with restrictions and indoor team sports to resume, but officials cited rising case numbers, rising hospitalizations and further spread of COVID-19 variants as the reasoning behind not moving forward.

Read more: Alberta not lifting any COVID-19 restrictions amid rising hospitalization numbers: Shandro

So if staying here doesn’t curb the spread, at what point would restrictions lifted when moving from Step 1 to 2 be put back into place?

Officials haven’t really given Albertans an answer this week.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro was first asked this question at the news conference on Tuesday when he announced Alberta would not be lifting restrictions.

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Click to play video: 'Alberta delays moving to next step in reopening as variant cases rise' Alberta delays moving to next step in reopening as variant cases rise
Alberta delays moving to next step in reopening as variant cases rise – Mar 22, 2021

He stressed the plan laid out by officials earlier this year for reopening was about moving forward, not backward, but there could be a time the province would be forced to restrict certain activities.

“It’s about looking at the data and where we see the cause of growth. If we, for example, saw it in (a) specific activity, there might be the imposition of further restrictions related to that activity.”

Read more: No Step 3 but where is Alberta headed when it comes to COVID-19?

During her Wednesday news conference, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said if variant cases continue to spread and variants become the dominant strain, more measures would likely be needed.

“If spread escalates, if we’re seeing the the spread and the transmission of our cases and particularly variant cases continuing to rise, it may be possible — it may be necessary to bring in additional restrictions”

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Click to play video: 'Hinshaw does not rule out increased COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta' Hinshaw does not rule out increased COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta
Hinshaw does not rule out increased COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta – Mar 24, 2021

But then during her news conference on Thursday, Hinshaw was asked what specific indicators the province was watching and what the threshold was for implementing new restrictions.

Hinshaw said it was important to be looking at a number of indicators including positivity rate, new case numbers, the R-value and variant spread in order to get a complete picture, but didn’t offer a specific threshold for new restrictions.

“For example, if our new cases are stable but our positivity rate is climbing, it could be because we’re not having people going for testing,” she said. “We can’t look at any one thing and point to that as the issue that that would trigger a particular restriction needing to be considered.

“We do have to look at that whole package and all of those together to get that full picture.”

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Click to play video: 'Hinshaw says each COVID-19 metric tells a different story when considering more restrictions in Alberta' Hinshaw says each COVID-19 metric tells a different story when considering more restrictions in Alberta
Hinshaw says each COVID-19 metric tells a different story when considering more restrictions in Alberta – Mar 25, 2021

When asked about the possibility of new restrictions on Friday, Premier Jason Kenney echoed Hinshaw’s statement about watching a number of indicators but also didn’t specify any metric for implementing any new restrictions.

“I was clear when we launched the path forward in the first week of February that if we saw a dangerous spike that in our view threatened the capacity of our health-care system, that we would be prepared to act with additional targeted public health measures. I hope we don’t have to do that and really, the single most powerful way we can prevent that is vaccines.”

Read more: Alberta doctors concerned sector-specific COVID-19 transmission data still not public

Earlier this week, the province’s R-value — or the number of people an infected person is infecting — was at 1.14 per cent.

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Click to play video: 'Alberta will not ease COVID-19 health rules to Step 3 for now' Alberta will not ease COVID-19 health rules to Step 3 for now
Alberta will not ease COVID-19 health rules to Step 3 for now – Mar 22, 2021

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alberta, told Global News at the time there is clearly more transmission.

But she questions whether the current restrictions are enough based on the fact it’s not clear where transmission is occurring.

“Between variants of concern and where we are seeing transmission, I think it should be on the table that if we have to dial back some of the things that have had reduced restrictions, it should be on the table because we know it’s not for that long,” she said.

Click to play video: 'No Step 3 but where is Alberta headed when it comes to COVID-19?' No Step 3 but where is Alberta headed when it comes to COVID-19?
No Step 3 but where is Alberta headed when it comes to COVID-19? – Mar 23, 2021

Dr. Darren Markland, a critical care physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, feels Alberta is on the upswing of the so-called “third wave.”

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He told Global News earlier this week that action needs to be taken now before history repeats itself.

“Once we do see numbers in hospitalization happen, we will go back to where we were. We can prevent that by doing it now. We can close down restaurants, bars, in-person worship now before it gets really bad,” he said.

“The bitter reality is anyone who dies from COVID now is a preventable death. We have a viable vaccination strategy.

On Thursday, Hinshaw confirmed an additional 764 cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths. There were 294 people in hospital, with 55 of those in the ICU.

New data will be released on Friday, but Hinshaw is not scheduled to have another news conference until Tuesday.

Click to play video: '‘The right decision for this time’: infectious disease expert reacts to Alberta holding off on relaxing more COVID-19 restrictions' ‘The right decision for this time’: infectious disease expert reacts to Alberta holding off on relaxing more COVID-19 restrictions
‘The right decision for this time’: infectious disease expert reacts to Alberta holding off on relaxing more COVID-19 restrictions – Mar 22, 2021
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