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COVID-19: Edmonton physicians urge Alberta government to test, trace, isolate

Click to play video: 'Jason Kenney responds to criticism over lifting more COVID-19 rules' Jason Kenney responds to criticism over lifting more COVID-19 rules
Jason Kenney has responded to criticism over lifting almost all COVID-19 restrictions. As Jackie Wilson reports, it comes as hundreds protest the move in Calgary and Edmonton. – Aug 3, 2021

A group of Edmonton doctors is calling on the Alberta government to reinstate COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolation requirements to control viral spread.

Read more: Kenney says Alberta accepted Hinshaw’s COVID-19 proposal ‘without modification’

Ten physicians from the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association have signed an open letter that draws attention to threats posed by the Delta variant and the potential for pediatric and adult intensive care units to become overwhelmed should Alberta continue with its approach.

Read more: Albertans protest ending mandatory COVID-19 isolation, masking and testing changes

Close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 are no longer being notified by contact tracers, nor are they required to isolate.

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Starting Aug. 16, infected individuals will no longer be legally required to isolate either.

The association says Alberta is going against the advice from Health Canada, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Read more: Alberta to adjust COVID-19 masking, isolation, testing rules over next month

The group is asking the province to review existing data and provide sound evidence before weakening COVID-19 control measures.

“We are concerned with the rapid speed of these changes and that you have provided no scientific data to Albertans to justify these unprecedented actions,” says the letter.

“There are repetitive waves of COVID-19 variants moving around the world and we have not yet reached a safe state with a constant low level of virus in our community.”

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Edmonton doctor Katherine Kasha is preparing for the changes coming to COVID-19 testing in the province.

As of Aug. 31, Alberta will be shifting testing from assessment centres to primary care, including doctors’ offices, but the move so far isn’t being well received.

“A lot of the doctors I talk to are talking about swabbing in parking lots as just being the safest way to keep symptomatic people out of the office,” Kasha said.

The president of Alberta Medical Association said many clinics are already very busy and aren’t equipped or willing to take this on.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for clinics to take over all the burden of testing the community, and so we really need to have a conversation about what the alternatives are,” said Dr. Paul Boucher, the president of the AMA.

Kasha said having been given no information yet from the province on how this will roll out isn’t ideal for medical staff and patients.

“The fact remains that we don’t have the space to do it,” she said.

“I can’t have symptomatic, coughing people beside my newborn babies and my really old people that the vaccine didn’t take for — we just don’t have the capacity let alone the money that it takes to provide personal protective equipment.”

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But Kasha said people who have a cough or cold can still get the help they need, they will just have to stay away from the clinic.

“Everyone I’ve talked to says, ‘No, we don’t want symptomatic (people) in our clinics.’ It’s not safe for anybody and we need more direction basically,” she said.

Kasha encouraged people with symptoms to not panic and to stay home if they can.

“Most of us will have phone visits set up where we can assess and make sure you are safe and then make a plan from there,” she said.

Boucher said he believes doctors will be given more information, he just doesn’t know how soon that might be.

–With files from Global News’ Chris Chacon

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