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Alberta doctors plead with new health minister for ‘fire break’ lockdown amid 4th COVID-19 wave

Click to play video: 'Alberta’s overwhelmed hospitals alter care amid COVID-19 crisis' Alberta’s overwhelmed hospitals alter care amid COVID-19 crisis
WATCH: Alberta's overwhelmed hospitals alter care amid COVID-19 crisis - Sept. 23 – Sep 23, 2021

Two Alberta doctors have teamed up in a letter to the province’s new health minister, demanding he take action this week “to prevent more disease, deaths and suffering.”

In the letter released Sunday, former chief medical officer of health for Alberta Dr. James Talbot and critical care specialist Dr. Noel Gibney highlight seven specific steps for Health Minister Jason Copping to follow in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Read more: Tyler Shandro loses health portfolio as Premier Jason Kenney shuffles cabinet

“Albertans are now dying at a rate of 15 (per) day from COVID-19 with as many as 29 dying in a 24-hour period. This is frighteningly close to our worst experience in the pandemic, when 25 people (per) day were dying and far fewer people were immunized,” the letter stated.

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“So much COVID is circulating in the province, because of our almost total lack of control measures, that Alberta has 11 times as many active cases as Ontario and four times as many as B.C. The rates are so high that we are now witnessing rare events like an 18-year-old dying.

Both doctors say the current hospital system in Alberta — especially ICUs — is under more stress than at any time in the province’s history.

Read more: Alberta announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths, sets new high for number of people in ICU with disease

During Friday’s COVID-19 update, the province identified 1,651 new cases of the disease over the past 24 hours. Provincially, there were 20,040 active cases.

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To stop the number of rising cases, both Talbot and Gibney are asking Copping and the Alberta government to:

  • work with Alberta Health Services to begin the transfer of Alberta ICU patients to ICUs in other provinces now,
  • require mandatory use of vaccine passports to access all non-essential services,
  • begin mandatory immunization of all employees and contractors, as well as related arms-length organizations (like Alberta Blue Cross and WCB),
  • mandate immunization of employees of essential and non-essential businesses,
  • restore contact tracing of patients with positive COVID-19 tests,
  • mandate masking indoors in schools, including when students are seated in classrooms,
  • implement a set of “fire break” closures and restrictions for a minimum of four weeks, which include:
    • closure of all nightclubs, casinos, bars and indoor dining,
    • closure of indoor exercise and sports activities in sports facilities/clubs and
    • strict capacity limits in indoor spaces including stores, shopping malls and places of worship and reinforcement of the need for social distancing indoors.

Read more: Former top doctor calls Alberta’s COVID-19 reopening plan ‘aggressive to the point of recklessness’

Global News reached out to Copping’s office for comment on the letter and will update this story if we receive a response.

Premier claims ‘Alberta has done pretty well’ on current state of the province

In a Sunday afternoon interview on the Roy Green Show, Premier Jason Kenney was asked how he’s assessing the current situation in the province.

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“I think Alberta has done pretty well. Albertans have risen to the challenge through the first 18 months of the pandemic with a much lower fatality rate in Canada, much lower than U.S. and in Europe, and generally doing that with less damaging restrictions,” Kenney said.

“But we have been hit hard with this fourth wave, primarily because we went into this with the lowest vaccination rates in Canada, I would say despite our best efforts.”

The premier went on to say, “Alberta’s political culture is unique in some ways.”

“A lot of freedom loving people here which I always think is a great asset of this province, but it also means that we have probably a larger share of the population who have throughout this been unwilling to follow public health guidelines.”

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