EDMONTON – Alberta’s former chief medical officer of health says the government’s recently released reopening plan has some major flaws.
Dr. James Talbot says the three-stage plan is moving way too fast.
Alberta is waiting two weeks after reaching specific vaccination benchmarks, but Talbot says other provinces are waiting three or four weeks to ensure the coast is clear.
“It’s reckless and wrong and it can’t get simpler than that,” said Talbot. He says in general, other provincial reopening plans are more cautious than Alberta’s and that they had reached important thresholds prior to easing restrictions.
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“We know from lots of experience in Alberta that it takes four weeks in between the time change protections [are implemented] and something shows up in hospital. and by then, they’ll have already completed all three phases–so that’s not smart,” he said, adding it was only a few weeks ago where we were the COVID-19 hotspot of North America.
He says it’s concerning that Alberta will go from being one of the least to make it out of the third wave to one of the first to be full reopened.
Talbot says reopening at the beginning of the summer opens the door for major events, like the Stampede, to be super-spreaders.
“That’s the very definition of reckless as far as I’m concerned.”
Premier Jason Kenney referenced multiple other nations worldwide that have started reopening, but Talbot says those comparisons aren’t necessarily fair ones to make.
He says the premier’s comparisons to Texas are specifically problematic because the level of protection against COVID-19 in that state is much higher than what it is in Alberta.
“They had so many more cases, they have significantly more people who have some immunity because they got COVID. And it’s estimated somewhere between 15 and 30 per cent were exposed to COVID whereas in Alberta it’s less than 10 per cent. So, that’s a significant level of protection that they have that we don’t have,” he explained.
“And the other level of protection they have is that they–I checked this yesterday–they have well over 30 per cent of their population already has their second dose of the vaccine and that’s what you need for full protection.”
Alberta has a little over half of the population immunized with the first dose of the vaccine with less than 10 per cent of Albertans having been given both shots.
Talbot says there’s too much emphasis on first doses and not enough on complete immunization in the reopening plan, adding people should continue following social distancing rules and wear a mask while they wait for their second dose of the vaccine.
He says Albertans have a government that’s pretending the province will reach COVID-zero in six weeks, when in reality the UCP is doing very little to achieve COVID-zero.
Talbot expects more viral transmission will happen over the summer and predicts that the B.1.617 variant will be a dominant strain should there be a fourth wave.
-with files from Courtney Theriault