EDMONTON – Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is apologizing for the way she communicated the province’s decision to cut back COVID-19 measures.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw says she’s been hearing that, following her announcement last week, people feel they’ve been left to deal with COVID-19 on their own with no interventions from the province.
She says that was not her intended message. And in an op-ed shared with media Wednesday, she breaks down her rationale.
“Over the past year and a half, we have faced an extraordinary threat together. COVID-19 has required extraordinary measures that have saved lives and prevented our health care system from being overwhelmed. These extraordinary measures were necessary and effective, but they also came with unintended consequences that harmed the health of Albertans in other ways,” she wrote, adding she cares deeply about the health of Albertans.
“The majority of our public health resources have been directed at the COVID-19 response, as has been necessary. That has come at the cost of not fully working on other threats, like syphilis and opioid deaths.”
Hinshaw says with millions of Albertans protected by COVID-19 vaccine, she felt now was an appropriate time to shift those resources to be more targeted.
Last week she announced the province would be doing away with some of the remaining COVID-19 rules, including removing mandatory isolation requirements, some testing and some contact tracing.
No longer mandating isolations for people who test positive has seemed to be one of the biggest points of contention.
“Legally mandating everyone to stay home for 10 days if they have any symptoms is also an extraordinary measure. It was necessary before vaccines, but it is also incredibly disruptive; it could only be justified when the risk was unchecked by vaccine protection,” she continued.
“I believe that for those who test positive for COVID-19, knowing that staying home is the way to protect others, and is the right thing to do, will be enough for them to take that action.”
She goes on to say while COVID-19 will never be eliminated, Albertans need to learn how to live with it.
As for children who are not yet able to get the vaccine, Hinshaw says she understands the anxiety, having two young kids herself.
She also says kids under 12 are significantly less likely to end up with severe cases of the virus.
“For kids 0 to 9, the risk of an ICU admission for seasonal influenza in the year before COVID was roughly equal to their risk of an ICU admission for COVID. In another example, kids aged 5 to 14 had a 140 times greater risk of an emergency department visit for a sports-related injury in 2019 than their risk of COVID-related hospital admission since March of 2020.”
She says while the last few COVID-19 measures lift, the province will continue to analyze data and monitor cases and reassess the COVID-19 battle plans as needed.
Hinshaw closes her letter by urging Albertans who have not gotten their shot, to not waste any more time.
“I cannot stress enough that vaccines are our most powerful tool in the fight against this virus. While the coverage we have in this province minimizes the threat of overwhelming the health care system, the virus remains a significant risk,” she said.Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is apologizing for the way she communicated the province’s decision to cut back COVID-19 measures.
“Now is the best time to choose to be protected, both for yourself and those around you.”
-with files from Courtney Theriault