'The inevitable next step': Alberta health minister defends COVID-19 policy changes
Alberta's health minister defended a series of changes to the province's COVID-19 response plan, calling the loosening of restrictions "the inevitable next step."
Tyler Shandro spoke to reporters in Edmonton on Thursday, citing vaccination numbers and comparably lower risk of severe outcomes for children who contract COVID-19.
"The data shows that what the vaccines are doing is making it less infectious and less deadly. That's a good thing that allows us to move to that endemic response."
"The pressures on the health system and our concerns about protecting lives are changing."
On Wednesday, the province announced it was shifting its public health response and lifting a number of measures related to quarantine, isolation and masks.
Shandro said the changes were made on the recommendation of Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health.
Shandro defended Alberta being the first province to announce such a sizable shift in policy, saying other jurisdictions will soon follow.
"Other provinces know this will be the inevitable next step," he said.
Shandro also said the province's trigger to move towards treating COVID-19 as an endemic was a vaccination rate of 65 per cent of eligible Albertans with a second dose.
The province is nearing that mark with 64.3 per cent of eligible Albertans having had two shots of COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Hinshaw, in her first appearance since June 29, announced the changes on Wednesday.
Starting today, close contacts of COVID-19 cases will no longer be mandated to quarantine, but isolation will still be required for positive cases and people with symptoms.
On Aug. 16, people who test positive for COVID-19 will not be mandated to quarantine anymore, but the province will recommend it.
Albertans with COVID-19 symptoms will not be asked to get tested, but to stay at home until they feel better. And two weeks later, COVID-19 tests will only be available to people who need to go to the hospital or see a physician.
Masks won't be mandatory in public transit, rideshares and taxies starting on Aug. 16, the province announced. Some masking may still be required in hospitals or continuing care facilities.
Hinshaw noted a significant amount of concern in the questions raised by primary care physicians while concluding Wednesday evening’s session.
“I want to acknowledge that any course of action we’ve taken throughout COVID has never been risk-free,” said Hinshaw. “Every course of action we take comes with consequences both positive and negative, and it’s no different with this policy change.”
Intensive care unit doctor Dr. Darren Markland told CTV News Edmonton the changes will especially impact young children.
“It will have repercussions,” said Markland. “Especially in younger kids who now potentially can show up maskless, unvaccinated with symptoms, and there will be no repercussions – just spread.”
Noel Gibney, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta's department of critical care, says the province's plan leaves too many unanswered questions.
"Why? Why are we doing these stupid things? Why are we going against all basic principles of public health?"
"It makes absolutely no medical sense."
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta has spiked sharply in recent weeks after the removal of most health restrictions on July 1.
In previous waves, a rise in both hospitalization and deaths has followed several weeks after an increase in cases.
Dr. Hinshaw had said that pattern may not follow given the protection vaccines afford against severe outcomes.
With files from Diego Romero and Sydney Upright
Edmonton Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The Conservative Party is facing internal strife as some insiders want to see Erin O'Toole ousted as leader, while newly elected MPs hope for some semblance of unity.
While the saga regarding the detainment of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor by Chinese authorities may be at an end, the political fallout between the two countries as a result of it remains unclear.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being urged by several experts on sexual misconduct in the military to name a new defence minister as he sets about building a new cabinet following Monday's federal election.
German voters were choosing a new parliament Sunday in an election that will determine who succeeds Chancellor Angela Merkel after her 16 years at the helm of Europe's biggest economy
A father and son have embarked on a 1,000-kilometre journey, on foot, to retrace the path their ancestors took when they escaped the residential school system and promote accountability of the Catholic Church.
While the release of the Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig is reason for celebration, there are many other Canadians still detained in China, with at least four having been sentenced to death.
An executive of Chinese global communications giant Huawei Technologies returned from Canada Saturday night following a legal settlement that also saw the release of two Canadians held by China, potentially bringing closure to a nearly 3-year-long feud embroiling Ottawa, Beijing and Washington.
American businesses are at a loss to explain why the U.S. continues to deny Canadians the ability to drive across the border for holidays, day trips or shopping excursions -- a restriction the federal Canadian government began easing over the summer for fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Family members and friends of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig can finally breathe a sigh of relief as the pair landed safely on Canadian soil for the first time in more than 1,000 days.
An Alberta Court of Queen's Bench justice has ruled that prospective jurors in an upcoming sexual assault trial in Calgary will be excused if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19.
A family of eight in now has a fully-furnished home thanks to two non-profits in Calgary, part of the Four Seasons of Hope project.
Humboldt Broncos bus crash father and organ donor advocate, Toby Boulet, is calling the province suspension of its organ donation program “devastating.”
For seven straight days Saskatchewan has reported record high COVID-19 hospitalizations, while also adding 492 new reported cases on Saturday.
The sixth annual National Drive Electric Week celebration in Regina aimed to dissolve common misconceptions around electric cars and promote their benefits for the environment.
New Brunswick is announcing another COVID-19 related death, as well as 61 new cases on Saturday.
Prince Edward Island announced one new COVID-19 case on Saturday.
Nova Scotia is scheduled to move into Phase 5 of its recovery plan on October 4 if all goes according to plan.
A B.C. man who was wrongfully jailed in China back in 2014 is offering his advice to Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor upon their return to Canada.
B.C. family stranded in Latvia since the start of the pandemic hopes to bring infant son home for medical treatment
When Alexander Krstovic posted the online fundraiser to cover the cost of flying his infant son with complex medical needs from Latvia to Vancouver, he wasn't expecting much. The response he received blew him away.
Homicide investigators have been called to Maple Ridge after a body was discovered inside a burning pickup truck in the city early Saturday morning.
Despite nearly $20 million spent over the last five years to solve homeless issues in the North Bay area, a new report finds the funding has not provided many benefits for those experiencing homelessness.
Every year, the Ontario Heritage Trust works with communities throughout the province to open up unique and fascinating cultural sites so that the public can explore and learn about the history behind closed doors.
Sudbury police officers, retirees, civilians, volunteers, family, and friends took part in a peace officers memorial awareness run on Saturday. The event is part of a national event to honour peace officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
A Manitoba family is advocating for the province to cover a potentially life-changing treatment option for people living with Cystic Fibrosis.
A disturbing new report shows cases of sextortion have increased by 62 per cent over the last six months, with teen boys being the biggest target.
Two more Vancouver Island schools have been added to the regional health authority's list of COVID-19 clusters.
Mail ballots in one of British Columbia's most hotly contested ridings have confirmed the loss of one of the Green Party's two incumbent MPs heading into the election, and a victory for the NDP candidate in the riding.
John Ryzebol plays for more than just his ever-expanding family (two children, seven grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren). Since the start of the pandemic, he's been taking musical rides around the neighbourhood, playing harmonica from his scooter every day.
On Friday, the Ontario Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that they would now provide coverage for Trikafta, a drug that has been heralded as "golden goose" of cystic fibrosis treatments but can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Peel Public Health is asking guests that attended a wedding in the Greater Toronto Area last week to seek testing and self-isolate due to a confirmed COVID-19 exposure.
Overnight crimes involving gunfire, assault leave 19-year-old dead, another injured, and two arrested in Montreal
One person has died, injuries are being monitored and bullet casings were found following a slew of what appear to be violent crimes occurring overnight in Montreal.
Actor Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge announced Friday that his 12-year relationship with Hyundai-Canada is over in the wake of his decision to wait for approval of a Quebec-made vaccine.
A driver in his twenties is fighting for his life in hospital after being extracted from accident wreckage in a city north of Montreal.
A combination of an afternoon rain, and a heavy police presence limited the amount of party-goers at Western University's Homecoming.
The Talbot Street Bridge claimed another victim Friday afternoon.
With public safety measures in place, university students in Waterloo Region gathered on Saturday for the first homecoming weekend since 2019.
Waterloo Regional Police have identified 18-year-old Joshua Bennett from Etobicoke as the man who was found dead in Kitchener on Friday morning.
A plan to build a three-story addition to the Preston Church of the Nazarene has drawn mixed reaction from Cambridge residents.