Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says they are considering a short, sharp “circuit breaker” economic lockdown to reverse a recent spike in COVID-19 casess. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says they are considering a short, sharp “circuit breaker” economic lockdown to reverse a recent spike in COVID-19 casess. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

‘Circuit breaker:’ Alberta considering options as COVID-19 cases continue to surge

The province has 800 contact tracers and is working to hire 380 more

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says the province is considering a short, but sharp economic lockdown that would act as a “circuit breaker” to help reverse a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

But Dr. Deena Hinshaw also says every decision needs to weigh larger issues of mental health, well-being and community impact.

“There’s no easy path through this,” Hinshaw told reporters Monday.

“We know that whatever measures we put in place, mandatory or voluntary, they are only going to be effective if Albertans come along with us and follow.”

COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in recent weeks in Alberta including 644 new ones announced by Hinshaw.

There are 192 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, 39 in intensive care. There have been 370 deaths.

In the last five days alone, there have been 3,700 new cases.

The surge is having a deleterious domino effect on health resources and staff: 30 per cent of non-essential surgeries in Edmonton have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

To that end, 174 Alberta physicians, including emergency room doctors and infectious disease specialists, wrote a public letter Monday to Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney saying more needs to be done immediately to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed caring for both COVID cases and other patients.

“If the rate of COVID-19 spread continues, the consequences to the people of Alberta will be catastrophic,” wrote the doctors.

“The province should consider a two-week, short, sharp lockdown, or ‘circuit breaker’ to drop the effective reproductive number and allow contact tracing to catch up.”

The province has 800 contact tracers and is working to hire 380 more. Last week, Alberta Health Services announced due to spike in cases they have had to reduce the scope of contact tracing.

The province has taken measured steps in recent days to try to control the virus while avoiding the widespread economic lockdowns imposed, and later lifted, earlier this year such as closing bars, restaurants and retailers.

Kenney has resisted calls to take drastic steps, saying the data isn’t there to support it and that a sweeping curtailment of public interaction could be far more harmful.

“Our data indicates it’s currently safer to eat out at a restaurant at a table with no more than six with protections in place than to attend a private gathering at someone’s home,” Kenney said Friday.

“Currently about 40 per cent of active cases in the two big cities are linked to household transmission or a private event.”

The province is asking families in Edmonton and Calgary to stop hosting extended gatherings and get-togethers. Public social gatherings in those two cities and surrounding areas are limited to 15 people. This includes functions like banquets and wedding receptions. The limit does not extend to wedding services.

Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said his party doesn’t want to see an economic lockdown, but said the government must do more in the meantime to slow the virus, such as signing on to the federal tracing app and creating a risk index to help businesses prepare for changes in health orders.

“If we reach a point where our acute health care system is overrun and the province is compelled into a lockdown, Albertans will look back at October and November and ask if everything that could have been done was done,” said Shepherd.

“As of today, sadly, the answer to that question is no.”

Also Monday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province is heartened but cautious after U.S.- based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was 90 per cent effective based on early results.

“I’m optimistic that there will be a vaccine, or several, starting distribution in the next several months, but I emphasize we have to contain the virus until a vaccine is widely distributed — and that’s going to be a number of months,” said Shandro.

The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Kiara Robillard is seen in an undated handout photo. When the pandemic began, Robillard had to rush back home to Alberta from California, where she had been living for five years, after she was struck by a truck that broke her spine in two places. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiara Robillard, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Pictured here is Stettler’s Jenner Smith with a guide dog from Aspen Service Dogs. An online auction will be running soon to help raise funds for Jenner to receive his very own service dog later this year. Jenner, who is four years old, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019. photo submitted
An online auction is planned to raise funds for a service dog for a Stettler family

Jenner Smith, four, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019

Most Read