Alberta may lift COVID-19 public health measures this month: Kenney

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Feb 01, 2022  •  6 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •  16 Comments

Premier Jason Kenney takes off his mask before providing an update on Alberta's COVID-19 response on Jan. 4, 2022.
Premier Jason Kenney takes off his mask before providing an update on Alberta’s COVID-19 response on Jan. 4, 2022. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia, file

Alberta will look at easing public health restrictions later this month if the province sees a sustained decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday.

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Speaking at an update on COVID-19, Kenney said he believes the province may be able to relax restrictions, including the vaccine passport program, by the end of February.

“We need to see a sustained decline in hospitalization pressure but, with the overall trends, I am very optimistic that we will be able to move forward with meaningful relaxation of public health measures this month including the elimination of the restriction exemption or proof of vaccination program,” Kenney said.

“I just ask people to be a little more patient as we are still at a record high number for non-ICU COVID hospital admissions. We need to see those numbers start to come down. And then I am confident we’ll be able to move forward safely and prudently with reducing the burden of public health measures on Albertans.”

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On Tuesday, there were 1,585 Albertans hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of 69 from Monday. Of those, 109 are in intensive care units, an increase of 10.

Kenney said he believes the province is at or around the peak for non-ICU hospitalizations. But as long as that number remains high, it means surgeries and other medical procedures will continue to be postponed.

“We’re operating at about 85 per cent of our typical surgical capacity right now. I’d actually like to see that closer to 100 per cent,” he said.

As the province looks to ease restrictions, there won’t be one specific measure that is relied on to determine when and how measures are eased.

“We are going to be looking at the overall trends altogether,” Kenney said. “Of course the infection trends with respect to positivity, the wastewater data, total active cases, but more specifically the hospitalization numbers.”

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He said the government is considering relaxing health measures in three phases to ensure cases and hospitalizations don’t begin to grow again.

“We will do this in a thoughtful and careful way driven by the data,” he said.

He plans to provide more information on the plan to lift restrictions as early as next week, and will also look to other jurisdictions across the globe that have passed the peak of the Omicron wave and how they managed their restrictions.

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Alberta reported 1,980 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday after 5,012 PCR tests were completed over the last 24 hours for a positivity rate of 39.5 per cent.

There are 35,322 active cases in the province, a decrease of 2,146.

In the Edmonton Zone, which includes the city of Edmonton and surrounding municipalities, there are 11,147 active cases, a decrease of 703. The city of Edmonton has 8,217 active cases, a decrease of 454 and about 791 active cases per 100,000 people.

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Thirteen more deaths raised the provincial death toll to 3,579.

As of end-of-day Monday, 89.8 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and older have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 86.1 per cent have received two doses.

Out of the province’s total population, 80.4 per cent have received a single dose and 74.5 per cent have received two doses.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said more than 3.1 million rapid tests will be sent to First Nations communities, pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer, and to Alberta Health Services sites in other parts of the province this week.

As well, the second mask and test shipment for schools started last week, and approximately one-third have been sent out, she said.

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Hinshaw also reviewed the province’s influenza cases. So far this season, there have been 39 confirmed cases of the flu, compared to zero last season.

One person has been hospitalized due to seasonal influenza.

“While that’s a very small number compared to previous years, more cases of influenza would put further strain on Alberta’s health-care system and health-care workers who are doing everything they can to support the health of Albertans,” Hinshaw said.

“By keeping the number of influenza cases and outbreaks low, we can help protect at-risk Albertans and reduce the pressure on our health-care system.”

Hinshaw said influenza vaccines, including the BlueZone high dose for seniors aged 65 and older, are still widely available across the province and are available at pharmacies and doctor’s offices.

ajunker@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

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