COVID-19: Kenney says Alberta accepted Hinshaw's COVID-19 measure proposal without changes

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the government accepted Dr. Hinshaw’s COVID-19 proposal “without modification.”

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In his first public comments since chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced sweeping changes to COVID-19 measures last Wednesday, Kenney said Tuesday the plan from Hinshaw and her team was presented to the COVID-19 cabinet committee on July 8.

“We accepted without modification the proposal that came forward from the chief medical officer of health, which is based on science and data, particularly on the powerful science and data behind the protective effect of the vaccines, which has, as (Hinshaw) says, dramatically changed the context of COVID-19,” said Kenney.

The changes include ending asymptomatic testing, contact tracing, and isolation requirements for close contacts and, beginning Aug. 16, those who test positive. Provincial masking will also no longer be required for transit, taxis, and rideshares beginning Aug. 16.

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The eased measures were met with concern from doctors, criticism from public health experts, and sparked protests last week that continued Tuesday on the legislature grounds in Edmonton and in Calgary.

The premier said it’s understandable people are “anxious” about the disease and restrictions, but added public health officials are anticipating a “significant” influenza season, and that forcing those who have symptoms to isolate was an “extraordinary measure” that is no longer necessary.

“I think Dr. Hinshaw is concerned that anybody who might have minor symptoms of cold or flu, if all of them are automatically put on two weeks of self-isolation, that can be very disruptive,” Kenney said.

Kenney referred to comments from Hinshaw, who said directing a majority of public health resources to the COVID-19 response has come at the cost of not focusing on other threats like the opioid crisis, and it’s time to shift to more targeted and local measures.

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Both Hinshaw and Kenney have strongly recommended that those who are symptomatic or who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home.

Kenney noted that while the province’s vaccination rates are slightly behind the Canadian average they are ahead of international averages.

“I am confident — we are confident — that the powerful protective effect of the vaccines is a complete game-changer. We now have two thirds of Albertans fully vaccinated and over three quarters, who have received at least their first dose,” said Kenney.

As of Tuesday afternoon’s COVID-19 update, 76 per cent of eligible Albertans had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 65.8 per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses. However, with more than 5.3 million doses doled out, the province still lags every other jurisdiction in Canada except for Saskatchewan in per-capita doses administered.

Alberta reported 2,176 active cases, the majority of which are in the Calgary zone — an increase of 521 since Friday’s update, when there were 1,655 active cases across the province.

With four days of compiled data from the long weekend released Tuesday, the province reported 126 new cases on Monday, 147 on Sunday, 230 on Saturday and 240 on Friday.

There were no new deaths, with the COVID-19 death toll remaining at 2,328, and the total number of hospitalizations sat unchanged at 90 — including 23 patients in intensive care.

lijohnson@postmedia.com

twitter.com/reportrix

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