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Alberta drops COVID-19 restrictions; Kenney backs Hinshaw

"The majority of our public-health resources have been directed to the COVID-19 response, as has been necessary, that has come at the cost of not fully working on other threats, like for example opioid deaths," Hinshaw said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the city of St. Albert had 12 active cases of COVID-19, just days after the province announced new rules for for Albertans that would not require those with a positive COVID-19 test to self isolate.

On July 28 the province announced that those who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer need to isolate as of July 29 and there will be no more testing required for Albertans who have mild symptoms. Provincial masking orders for transit, in taxis or ride shares will also expire.

Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the changes July 28 as part of the province's move to treat the virus as part of life in Alberta and treat it in the same way Albertans treat other respiratory viruses.

The province will also stop contract tracing, expect for in high-risk settings, and masks will not be required in schools in September.

Most of the changes will take effect on Aug. 16.

“When we heard of COVID-19, we knew little of the virus and we had no treatments and no vaccines,” Hinshaw said.

“This meant we needed to enact unprecedented measures to protect human life and to prevent our health-care systems form being overwhelmed. We have made incredible sacrifices. Today we are in a very different place.”

Hinshaw said that almost all new infections, hospital admissions, and deaths are from those who are not vaccinated.

Alberta's top doctor said thanks to the protective coverage of vaccines, the province can shift to more targeted local measures to battle COVID-19. 

"I care deeply about the health of all Albertans. This means I have to constantly consider not just COVID-19, but all of the other threats to people's health. The majority of our public-health resources have been directed to the COVID-19 response, as has been necessary, that has come at the cost of not fully working on other threats, like for example opioid deaths," Hinshaw said.

"As vaccine coverage changes the nature of the province wide risk of COVID-19 it is, in my opinion, time to shift from province-wide extraordinary measures to more targeted and local measures. This allows us to start looking at other issues while still continuing COVID-19 protective measures."

Alberta's Premier Jason Kenney said on Tuesday the proposal to remove the restrictions came from Hinshaw and her team, and that he accepted the proposal that came forward with out making any modifications. 

As of Tuesday afternoon the province had 90 residents in the hospital, with 19 in intensive care. The seven-day average for positivity rate sits at 2.4 per cent.

There are 1,655 active cases across the province.

So far there have been 5,294,361 doses of the vaccine administered in the province, with 75.8 per cent of the eligible population receiving one dose. Some 65 per cent of Albertans over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated.

Kenney said on Tuesday afternoon at a media availability that although kids aren't immunized from COVID-19, the risks for children are "extremely low."

"They are lower than for the typical annual flu. As Dr. Hinshaw pointed out, we saw more children hospitalized in intensive care over the seven-month flu season of 2019-2020 than we have for the 17 months of COVID-19," Kenney said. 

Kids aged five to 14 had a 140 times greater risk of an emergency-room visit for a sports-related injury in 2019 than their risk for for COVID-19-related hospital admission since March of 2020, Kenney said. 

"We don't talk about shutting down kids sports because unfortunately kids get injured and have to go to the emergency ward. A tiny fraction of that number have to visit a hospital with COVID-19," Kenney said. 

The premier said it is important to remember that through the pandemic there hasn't been a single death in Alberta for anyone under the age of 20 and the vaccine coverage just reduces the chance of kids becoming sick and experiencing severe symptoms. 

Kenney said that cases will go up and down, with an increase expected in the fall, but he said vaccines are a game changer for preventing cases from climbing as high as they did during the first three waves. 

Since the pandemic began the province has spent $1.5 billion above the health budget, with another $1.25 billion built in as a COVID-19 contingency plan, and Kenney said the province would spend the money on more restrictions if they felt it was necessary.

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Jennifer Henderson

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette
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