Hinshaw says lifting Alberta's COVID-19 restrictions in July set trajectory of pandemic's fourth wave

Article content

Alberta’s chief medical health officer says the decision to lift almost all COVID-19 public-health restrictions in early July set Alberta on the trajectory towards the current fourth wave of the pandemic now putting immense pressure on the health-care system.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Dr. Deena Hinshaw spoke at a Zoom meeting with Primary Care Network physicians Monday night. She said she regrets her role in creating the narrative that the pandemic was over.

“I feel very responsible for the narrative that has made it more complicated to try to put additional public health measures in place,” she said.

“Whether or not it was my intention, what was heard at the end of July was ‘COVID is over, we can walk away and ignore it’ and that has had repercussions and I deeply regret how that has played out.”

Hinshaw also expressed regret over the decision to end most contact tracing but said it would be too difficult to ramp that back up during the fourth wave in part because so many staff are needed in other places.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

“I don’t believe that contact tracing change has had a huge impact on our trajectory. I think that trajectory was set when we removed all the public health restrictions at the beginning of July.”

In May, Premier Jason Kenney announced a three-stage process for lifting COVID-19 restrictions, promising that the province was “Open for Summer.”

By July 1, along with rolling back most contact tracing outside of investigations in high-risk settings, the province had lifted the rules around indoor and outdoor social gatherings, as well as capacity limits in businesses, recreation, large events like concerts or sports and other settings. The province-wide mask mandate was also lifted.

Hinshaw said that at the time, the level of vaccination that the province was seeing suggested it was “reasonable” to start “walking down that path.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

“But of course, the expectations did not match reality, and very shortly after we started that endemic path, we could see already…within a couple of weeks that we weren’t seeing that decoupling that we expected and really had to shift and walk back. Clearly, we’re in a significant challenge right now with respect to our acute care system,” she said.

Hinshaw said it’s clear the province is dealing with a “crisis.”

The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen higher ICU usage by COVID-19 patients than at any other point during the pandemic.

Alberta Health Services has had to cancel surgeries that it does not consider urgent across the province.

With 230 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population, Alberta has the highest rate of COVID-19 in the country. Nationally, Canada has 76 cases per 100,000.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Latest articles

Related articles