Alberta NDP calls on province to do more about surging COVID-19 case numbers

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EDMONTON — Alberta's Opposition health critic urged the provincial government Friday to do more to curb COVID-19 daily case numbers not seen since the spring.

New Democrat David Shepherd said the province's inoculation efforts have begun to stall and the United Conservative Party government should make vaccines readily available to everyone.

Mobile vaccination clinics should be in areas where Albertans gather, such as supermarkets, malls, parks and festival grounds, he said.

"We should make it ridiculously easy for Albertans to get their shots, especially since the province has reported that they have 1.3 million doses sitting and ready to go," Shepherd said.

About 68 per cent of eligible people in the province have been fully vaccinated.

The province reported 749 new COVID-19 infections Friday, slightly down from the 817 recorded a day earlier — the highest daily count since mid-May.

There was one more death to bring the total number of Albertans who have died from the virus to 2,343.

Active cases reached 6,709 and there were 221 people in hospital, including 48 in intensive care.

Shepherd said Thursday's case count was up 43 per cent over the last week. Case numbers and hospitalizations are higher than this time last year, he added.

"Why does this comparison matter? In less than two weeks time hundreds of thousands of Albertans will be returning to classrooms in both (kindergarten to Grade 12) and post-secondary institutions."

Shepherd said the government should release internal modelling that it has said supported its decision to eliminate almost all remaining public health measures by the end of September.

"We know the (Jason) Kenney government has modelling data that gives them an idea of what the coming weeks will look like, but they are intentionally hiding this information from Albertans and that is unacceptable," he said.

The Alberta government was going to eliminate isolation and testing requirements as of last Monday, but walked back the decision after mounting pressure. Those measures are now expected to stay in place until Sept. 27.

Earlier this month, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu penned a letter to her Alberta counterpart, Tyler Shandro, saying she agreed with the Canadian Paediatric Society's description of Alberta's plan to lift all COVID-19 measures as an "unnecessary and risky gamble.''

The offices of the premier and provincial health minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2021.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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