May 6th, 2021

Alberta’s Kenney tightens COVID rules to prevent looming hospital catastrophe, triage


By Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press on May 4, 2021.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Albertans are getting ready to hear new restrictions today as the province's leaders deal with the highest COVID-19 case rates in the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – Premier Jason Kenney, with surging COVID-19 rates threatening to overwhelm Alberta’s hospitals, is reintroducing stricter rules on gatherings, businesses and schools not seen since the first wave of the pandemic.

Kenney, in a live address on TV, social media and the United Conservative government’s website, said the next three weeks are critical and that potential catastrophe awaits.

“If exponential growth of COVID-19 in Alberta continues, it would begin to push the outer limits of even our surged and expanded hospital capacity within weeks,” Kenney said Tuesday night.

“We will not permit our health-care system to be overwhelmed. We must not and we will not force our doctors and nurses to decide who gets care and who doesn’t.”

Some of the tighter restrictions haven’t been seen in Alberta since the first wave of COVID-19 last spring.

They apply to most of the province, except small sections with small caseloads.

All kindergarten to Grade 12 students will be sent home to learn online at the end of the week until at least May 25. Thousands of students in higher grades in Edmonton and Calgary have already been learning from home.

All post-secondary learning must also go online.

Outdoor gatherings are being cut from a maximum of 10 people to five as of Wednesday. Indoor social gatherings remain banned.

Non-critical businesses with outbreaks must close for at least 10 days.

Customer capacity in retail stores, at 15 per cent of the fire code maximum, will be 10 per cent as of Wednesday. And worship services, also at 15 per cent capacity, will be limited to a maximum of 15 people.

Barber shops, hairs salons, tattoo parlours and other personal wellness services must close Sunday. Restaurants, already closed to in-person dining, must also close their patios. Take-out service can continue.

Kenney also said there will be stepped-up fines and enforcement.

His announcement came shortly after the federal NDP asked Ottawa to consider invoking the Emergencies Act in response to the crisis in Alberta.

New Democrat Heather McPherson, the MP for Edmonton Strathcona, says in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons that she will propose an emergency debate Wednesday.

Alberta had 23,623 active COVID-19 infections Tuesday – the highest case rate of any jurisdiction in North America.

There are 150 infected people in intensive care wards with the illness, numbers that in recent days have matched or exceeded record levels.

Alberta’s Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Kenney’s announcement was another example of a premier hesitant to introduce and enforce restrictions, then doing it on the fly when forced with little notice to those affected.

“It should never have gotten to this level,” said Notley.

“The numbers are huge, bigger than they ever have been before. And they’re going to continue to grow for at least another week before the effects of these measures come into play.”

Kenney said the health system can free up to 425 intensive care beds to deal with the surge but that would mean massive cancellations of non-urgent surgeries along with other impacts to the system.

Hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton have already cancelled one-third of non-urgent surgeries to free up bed space.

Earlier Tuesday, dozens of emergency room physicians and specialists said Alberta is on track to double to 300 or more the number of ICU patients by month’s end. That would be on top of another 150 patients expected to be in critical care for other ailments.

The 48 doctors, in an open letter under the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine letterhead, said that combined number would likely push bed space and staffing beyond capacity and force doctors to triage patients.

There were 671 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday. At the height of Alberta’s second wave in December, there were more than 900.

The third wave has been powered by the spread of more contagious variants, which now compose about two-thirds of active cases.

Alberta has had more than 1,000 new cases nearly daily for almost a month. Over the last week, the number has leaped to more than 2,000.

Kenney resisted stricter rules as late as eight days ago. He said existing restrictions were sufficient, that more people simply needed to follow them, and that stiffer rules would likely be ignored by a pandemic-fatigued populace.

By Thursday, however, he announced school and gym closures in high-case hot spots in urban areas, including Edmonton and Calgary.

As numbers continued to soar over the weekend and hundreds of unmasked people attended a “No More Lockdowns” rodeo in central Alberta, Kenney said new measures were needed.

— With files from Christopher Reynolds in Ottawa

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021.

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Southern Albertan

Unfortunately, these restrictions might not be as effective as wished. For example, the malls are still open, for example. We still need indicators on what needs to be done if this is not enough. It was said, by those experts who commented on Alberta’s drastic situation, that Alberta had no choice now, to do a complete lockdown.

Resolute

This all makes no sense. According to Alberta Health’s online data at April 30/2021 there are 150 covid cases in ICU. And Alberta has 8551 ICU beds in 106 hospitals. So 1.75% of the current use-able ICU beds are occupied by covid patients. Can anyone connect these facts with our oremier’s actions and scary forecasts of an overwhelmed medical system?

Tom Johnston

As it was my understanding that Alberta has just under 300 ICU beds (although that capacity can be scaled up to, as I recall, something like 425), I decided to to a little digging. 
Where, I wondered, did the figure of 8,551 come from? Then I found the AHS website referenced. The number 8,551 refers to “Acute Care” beds. Acute care bed are for people who require hospitalization for all kinds of reasons, such recovering from surgery. Acute care bed are not ICU beds. ICU bed are far fewer in number because in normal circumstances there is less demand for ICU beds. Moreover, ICU beds are considerably more specialized, require more highly-trained personnel, and are much more expensive to maintain.

Last edited 16 hours ago by Tom Johnston
ewingbt

More BLAAH BLAAH BLAAH . . . you can put all the laws and restrictions in place you want, but if they are not backed up by the offenders being fined or even put in jail . . . they are useless, ineffective and make everyone angrier!
When will this government protect Albertans instead of destroy them! Remember the EMS dispatch change . . . well I have personally witnessed an out of town ambulance running around downtown Lethbridge trying to find the Fritz-Sick center, while it took someone on the phone with the ‘central dispatch’ who knew nothing about our city, and a person waiving their arms frantically trying to get the attention the EMS once they came into view . . . your could hear them driving all over a 3 block area of the track for 10 minutes, before we could finally see them a block away . . . another great move by this government!
Just one of many issues this great ‘central dispatch’ call center has seen that were forecast by regions that had been forced to take use this center and experienced many of the issues and warned us all, but the UCP didn’t listen, a center that cost over $13 million to save $6 million . . . and how many lives have been lost already. Don’t blame the paramedics . . . they are stuck in the middle!
Get your act together and go after the offenders, all of them and start using deterrents to protect us . . . or are you trying to get rid of us and destroy this province!!!!

Last edited 15 hours ago by ewingbt
mikebreu

Maybe I missed something, but abortion clinics are not on the closure list. I can’t believe that abortion services are deemed to be more essential than hair salon services for instance. People need to have access to haircuts. Very few people are barbers and hair needs to be properly cut and groomed. If the government is really so serious about saving lives, why are abortions still allowed? Why were they ever allowed? Don’t tell me your serious about saving lives if you still provide abortions. Don’t tell me you’re serious about saving lives either if you’re okay with euthanasia or assisted suicide. Because then you’re just a bunch of liars and hypocrites.
My opinion therefore: this is all about power, control and forced compliance; not about saving lives.



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