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No clear answer on COVID-19 vaccine passports as Alberta announces new continuing care funding

Alberta Health minister Tyler Shandro danced around questions on vaccine passports as Alberta recorded its highest daily case count since early May.

Speaking to the public on Thursday afternoon, Shandro said there are factors that are making government-mandated immunization records difficult to implement.

“It’s unfortunately not an easy answer,” he said in response to a question about mandatory immunization records.

“Quite frankly because of the many different circumstances we see where COVID is spreading right now in the province.”

He said factors such as the disparity in age groups and geographic areas are making it difficult for the government to implement a mandatory measure.

Vaccine passports have started to show an uptick in vaccination numbers across the country in provinces like BC and Ontario.

Shandro said that the government is considering that data while making a decision, but they are also implementing something for Albertans who chose to show their record.

Beyond that, though, he didn’t say whether or not the province will not do anything to mandate vaccine passports.

He says the province is working on a QR code to make it easier to show your vaccine status.

Rising cases

Alberta reported a total of 1,522 total new cases on Thursday, which is the highest number the province has seen since May.

There were a total of nine deaths, bringing the total up to 2,434 since the beginning of the pandemic.

There are currently 679 people in hospital of which 154 are in ICU.

The ICU capacity at 87 per cent, with around 75 per cent of those paitients infected with COVID 19. That number includes surge beds. Without surge beds, Dr. Verna Yiu said they’d be at around 130 per cent.

To alleviate the pressure, new funding was announced to help facilities including long-term care homes and hire more staff.

Foothills Medical Centre, Calgary. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / QYD

Additional resources

Shandro announced that resources are being added for home care and continuing care, with the goal of moving people out of hospitals and into these settings.

About $22 million will be invested over two years to increase pay for people working in these areas.

Also, $14 million will go to support short term staff increases in home care and continuing care. Shandro says these areas have staffing challenges, and this should help retain staff and hire new people.

They have also postponed surgeries in order to create immediate capacity in the ICU.

“I just want to stress right now that right now we’re just, we’re very concerned about our ICU capacity, that is our number one challenge and our number one issue” said Dr. Yiu.

“I think we do have some time to work on the incentive funding to create that additional sort of medium-term as the Minister said.”

No new health measures were announced, and those implemented on Friday, Sept. 4 remain in place.

That miffed the Opposition Alberta NDP.

“Today’s announcement from the UCP was not only totally inadequate, it was shockingly tone-deaf and dismissive of the crisis we are in and the very real impact it has on Albertans,” said NDP Health Critic, David Shepherd.

“We are seeing more deaths, a spike in hospitalizations and the mass cancellation of surgeries for Albertans who are sick and suffering and the government has given up. We are no longer stopping the spread of COVID-19, we are only making more room for Albertans to suffer or even die from it and that includes some who did the right thing and got their shots.”

Shepherd said the response doesn’t match the severity of the situation.

“We are in a crisis and this is NOT a crisis response. This is continued cowardice from Jason Kenney as he fails to address the real problem which is the unchecked spread of COVID-19 among the unvaccinated,” he said.

“Jason Kenney created this crisis, and now Albertans are left to watch as he and his cabinet are paralyzed by politics.”