Kenney has no plans to change reopening in face of rising COVID virus variant cases

·2 min read
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Friday that no decisions have been made about the next stage of reopening.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Friday that no decisions have been made about the next stage of reopening.

(CBC - image credit)

The Alberta government has no immediate plans to put a stop to its phased re-opening, despite concerning new projections about the more contagious coronavirus variants.

The Public Health Agency of Canada released modelling on Friday showing cases could spike to 10,000 per day nationwide by the end of March if current restrictions are maintained.

And if public health restrictions are relaxed further, there could be an even more dramatic spike of 20,000 cases a day within a month, the modelling indicates.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said strong public health measures need to stay in place to avoid "a third wave that is even worse than the second or the first."

Trudeau spoke with Canadian premiers late Thursday about not opening up too fast.

Additional measures possible

At a press conference on Friday, Premier Jason Kenney said no decisions on the next stage have been made, but that "troublesome" increases in numbers — including cases, hospitalizations and the positivity rate — could prompt delays in reopening.

"If things were to get really bad and let's say we end up with a huge spike in new cases and hospitalizations driven by the new variants, I've been clear that we might have to introduce additional measures that limit social interaction," Kenney said.

Kenney also announced that seniors aged 75 and older will be able to book appointments for COVID-19 vaccines beginning next week, and that residents of lodges and other continuing care facilities will be offered the vaccine beginning Friday.

University of Calgary infectious disease expert Craig Jenne said it's time to put re-opening on hold until health officials sort out why the declining case counts have plateaued.

"I think if we wait until we see a massive spike in cases or hospitalizations, it may already be too late to really control the spread of these variants," said Jenne, who teaches in the department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary.

Jenne said the positivity rate has inched up and variant cases are growing.

"I think right now we probably need to be considering further delay on the decision to move to Phase 2. Over the last week, we have seen the decline in cases pretty much stop here in Alberta and instead have really begun to plateau out," he said.

"This is now almost two weeks since we've gone through the Phase 1 reopening, and we really need to determine if the stop in daily case reductions is due to the variants in the community. Is it due to viral transmission that is now being supported through our activities in Phase 1?"

Alberta reported 325 new cases of COVID-19 and seven more deaths from the disease on Friday. The total number of people who have died from COVID-19 now stands at 1,812.