Alberta removes COVID-19 public health requirements as cases jump

Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw at a Feb. 16, 2021 COVID-19 media conference. ABGOV FLICKR

Alberta will lift the majority of its remaining COVID-19 public health rules by mid-August, just as cases continue their rise around the province.

The province announced the withdrawal of measures Wednesday, as Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw made her first media appearance since June 29.

On July 27, 194 cases were reported, with 799 active cases in Calgary. Of those new cases, 123 were variants. Meanwhile, 64 per cent of Albertans are fully vaccinated, according to the province.

Beginning July 29, quarantine is only recommended for close contacts of confirmed COVID019 cases. Isolation for symptomatic and confirmed is still required. Positive cases will continue to be notified, but close contacts won’t be. People are asked to inform close contacts of their positive result.

Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended. Testing is still available for those with symptoms.  Mandatory masking remains in place for continuing care facilities, public transit, taxis and rideshare.

“Our top priority is supporting the health of Albertans. COVID-19 is still with us but we are now in a place where we need to manage it through vaccinations and the proven public health measures used for other communicable viruses,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw.  

“We expect to see increased influenza and other viruses this year, and these changes will make sure the health system is ready and able to support all Albertans in the months ahead.”

Dr. Hinshaw said they expect case counts to continue to rise with changes to the rules. The number to watch is hospitalizations, she said.

“COVID-19 is still a serious virus and it can have life-threatening consequences, and it is now primarily infecting people who do not have their vaccine,” she said.

Mayor Nenshi perplexed

Starting Aug. 16, mandatory isolation rules for positive cases will be removed. It will still be strongly recommended. Testing will remain in place for COVID-19 in assessment centres until Aug. 31. It will then be available in primary care settings, including doctors’ offices.

Testing will also be available for severe outbreak situations. Come September, masking won’t be required in school settings unless there’s an outbreak.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was concerned the province wouldn’t be testing coupled with not requiring isolation.

“I guess it means we’re not going to have a fourth wave because we won’t know, because we’re not testing,” he said.

Nenshi said Calgary city council could be recalled for a special meeting to deal with any COVID-related concerns.

The caseload is the highest since June 8. The province’s R-value (infection rate) stands at 1.49. That means for every one infection, 1.49 more people will be infected.  The R-value had been below 1 for some time.

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