EDMONTON – After weeks of pressure, Alberta is walking back its plan to get rid of the last remaining COVID-19 protocols in the province.
At the end of July, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced that the province’s plan was to scale back testing and eliminate mandatory COVID-19 isolations by next Monday.
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Hinshaw now says new emerging data has led her to recommend adjusting that plan, and keep current health measures in place for at least another six weeks.
Alberta's next step of its COVID restriction-loosening plan will be postponed six weeks until Sept. 27.
In the meantime:
Isolation will be required for positive cases.
Masks will be required on buses & taxis.
Symptomatic people can get tested at testing centres.
— Stefanie Lasuik (@StefanieLasuik) August 13, 2021
“Reviewing data from Alberta and across the globe in the past few weeks has led me to a point where I feel that a pause on the next changes is the best way forward. I deeply care about, and am committed to, the overall health of all in Alberta,” she said.
Provincial mask mandates will remain in place for public transit and anyone driving or riding in a taxi or rideshare.
Symptomatic people will still be able to get tested at testing centres and people who test positive will still be required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days–something Hinshaw had called an “extreme” measure.
Hinshaw pointed to data on pediatric cases from the states, which saw a significant increase in hospitalizations in kids due to the delta variant and lower vaccination rates. She also noted numbers out of the U.K., where there was fewer hospitalization in kids because more people there have been fully vaccinated.
She says the delay in dropping the final health measures gives the province more time to boost vaccine numbers in Alberta.
“If monitoring confirms our original expectations that a rise in cases will not lead to high levels of hospitalizations, and we do not see evidence of increased risk for severe disease for children, we will proceed with implementing this next set of changes after Sept. 27.”
The plan to remove remaining measures has drawn widepread criticism from Alberta’s medical community.
Doctors have expressed concern and angry Albertans have protested for several days in Edmonton and Calgary.
The province’s official opposition has been vocal about the plan as well, agreeing with doctors that the changes were coming too early.
“Testing, tracing, isolation–those are the most basic health measures. Jason Kenney was ready to destroy those protections for his own political gain,” NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said.
“The fact that they are indeed extending these predictions out for another six weeks is, in fact, an admission that they were moving too fast, that they had failed to prepare, that they were more interested in pursuing a potential political gain than they were in showing good governance and leadership.”
Hinshaw asked if today's announcement was an acknowledgement that the people who said cases would go up were right, despite those people being criticized by government officials.
— Courtney Theriault (@cspotweet) August 13, 2021
Alberta currently has the highest active COVID-19 case count in Canada.