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Coronavirus: Why Alberta’s summer festival fun has been cancelled

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health defended the decision to effectively cancel all summer public events in the province, saying some Albertans were angry at her for the position.

In Friday’s daily briefing, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced another 297 cases to Alberta’s coronavirus count, bringing the total to 4,017.  Among those, 350 cases are currently believed to be community acquired.

Five people died (since last reporting, though one late addition was made yesterday and included in the tally today). Three of those deaths in long term care facilities, said Dr. Hinshaw.

“I want to remind people that, because the incubation period can be up to two weeks, we can continue to see new cases in some of these facilities even after all control measures have been put in place,” she said.

The total number of deaths in Alberta is now 72, with 1,397 people that have recovered from COVID-19.

‘…Profoundly disappointed, or even angry…’

Dr. Hinshaw said she heard from many Albertans after her Thursday statement. She stated that all summer festivals and events fell under the public gathering rules and wouldn’t be allowed to go ahead.

Major festivals in both Calgary and Edmonton were cancelled Thursday, prior to Dr. Hinshaw’s statement. In Thursday’s briefing, she referred to festival like these as “super-spreader” events.

“I have heard from many Albertans who are profoundly disappointed, or even angry about my statement regarding summer events,” she said.

“How can I ask them to give up their summer, when we don’t know for sure what the situation will be like in one or two months? I hear this loud and clear.”

She then went on to describe why the decision was a valid one.

Dr. Hinshaw said the virus will be with us for months. Despite what we see in the curve, COVID-19 won’t go away over the summer.

“We’ve had several instances in the province of social gatherings where one person passes the virus on to many others at a single event,” she said.

No blame, just looking out for folks

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. ALBERTA GOVERNMENT / FLICKR

Several events have been linked to larger spreads. Dr. Hinshaw used the example of the Edmonton doctor bonspiel, where 40 of 73 that attended contracted COVID-19.

Other events like the dental conference early on or gathering in Calgary that was responsible for several cases.

“The common theme in all of these is that the source did not know they had COVID, or there was possibly an environmental source, with high touch surfaces,” she said.

“The attendees were trying to be careful with regular hand sanitization and trying to follow distancing rules, but the gatherings were social in nature.”

Dr. Hinshaw said she’s not blaming anybody, but that’s why these decisions are being made. It doesn’t take much to trigger a larger outbreak.

“What I want to underline is that the kinds of social gatherings we are used to, even in the summer, can result in significant spread of the virus from just one person who may not even know they’re infected,” she said.

“The results can be explosive, far reaching, and deadly.”

Relaunch and relaxation of public health measures

Discussions are ongoing about what the Alberta relaunch will look like. Premier Jason Kenney said a meeting was convened earlier this week to examine steps to unwind the lockdown in Alberta.

That review will include outdoor recreation, including kids’ sports and being in Alberta parks.

Even with a graduated relaunch, distancing measures, handwashing, masking and even limiting groups will be a part of it.

“I know that people want to plan and I know that the more advanced notice they have, the easier it is to make those plans, she said.

“I would just ask people to be patient as we work through these relaunch discussions, and we will be coming forward with more information.”