'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
BREAKING | Meng strikes deal with U.S. justice officials, including withdrawal of Canadian extradition request
U.S. Justice Department officials and Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou have reached a deal to resolve the criminal charges against her, and if agreed to by the court, it will allow the woman who has been at the centre of a years-long major geopolitical case to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement and be released, under certain terms.
The head of emergency medicine for the Alberta Medical Association says major components of triage have already begun in Alberta.
Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says "active" discussions are underway with various countries, including the U.S., to permit the entry of Canadians with mixed COVID-19 vaccine doses.
New Brunswick to reinstate state of emergency as province reports record COVID-19 cases, three more deaths
New Brunswick will be returning to a state of emergency as the province continues to battle the growing fourth wave of COVID-19, officials announced Friday.
Gatineau police say the deaths of a father and his two young children at an Aylmer, Que. home were a double murder-suicide.
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is reporting that residents of the Saugeen First Nation in Ontario were given expired doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for nearly a month before the error was caught.
A draft report of the election review in Arizona's largest county by supporters of former U.S. president Donald Trump found that current U.S. President Joe Biden did indeed win the 2020 presidential contest there, an embarrassing end to a bizarre quest to find evidence supporting Trump's false claim that he lost because of fraud.
U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris' live interview on 'The View' was abruptly delayed Friday after two hosts of the talk show learned they had tested positive for COVID-19 moments before Harris was to join them on the set.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is confronting a full-throated justification for a pink slip thanks to his chronic tone-deafness during the pandemic, incredulously topped off by taking a two-week vacation in Europe this month as Albertans were dying from the consequences of his policies, writes Don Martin in his exclusive column for CTVNews.ca.
Calgary police has received a complaint and will begin investigating allegations newly elected Liberal MP George Chahal improperly removed campaign material promoting his opponent from a doorstep.
The Canadian Armed Forces has confirmed that it will be sending resources to help with Alberta's overwhelmed intensive care units.
Saskatchewan is nearing another milestone in its effort to get COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of residents.
A judge has sentenced Blake Schreiner to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 17 years.
Saskatchewan broke COVID-19 hospitalization records again on Thursday, reporting 273 patients in hospital with 58 in intensive care.
As COVID-19 cases increase in Saskatchewan youth, medical experts say more restrictions are needed in schools to stop the transmission of the virus.
'Unbelievably heartbreaking': Sask. nurse left waiting for transplant as province suspends organ donation program
Krystal Graham has been on the liver transplant waitlist for about a year. Now, she says she is concerned COVID-19 will delay her life-saving surgery even longer.
Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 34 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 recoveries on Friday, as the number of active cases in the province rises to 169.
Prince Edward Island is reporting six new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the province’s active case count to 39.
A man has been sentenced to one year of probation in connection with a caught-on-camera incident described by the woman involved as stalking.
Three police officers have been charged in connection with a 2017 arrest that left a cyclist seriously injured in East Vancouver.
Following intense public pressure in British Columbia, and scrutiny from across the country, health officials have finally revealed a more accurate account of how many patients are in hospital due to COVID-19.
In a twist to the fatal shooting in Schumacher on Thursday, Timmins police said the suspect arrested in connection to the homicide has been cleared and detectives are resuming their search for the person responsible.
Despite the rain, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit administered close to 200 vaccines at its mobile clinic Wednesday evening.
Few details are known, but North Bay police have reopened Cedar Street after an incident Friday morning that triggered a 'hold and secure' protocol at several area schools.
BREAKING | Unvaccinated teachers, health-care workers in Manitoba will have to undergo rapid COVID-19 testing in October: health order
As of next month, designated front-line workers such as health-care workers and teachers will need to undergo regular rapid COVID-19 testing if they are unvaccinated, according to a new public health order.
Manitoba is reporting 60 new COVID-19 cases in the province, though no new deaths have been reported.
Manitoba is dealing with a backlog of requests to match residents with a family doctor.
Alcohol and speed are believed to be factors in a crash that killed a road worker and injured another near Nanaimo on Thursday night.
From a "heat dome" and a summer filled with drought and wildfires, to possible record-breaking rain in the month of September, Mother Nature can be a fickle lady.
The final federal election result may be delayed until the weekend - or even longer - because thousands of mail-in ballots have still to be counted.
The Ontario government is easing restrictions on capacity limits for some indoor and outdoor settings where proof of vaccination is required.
A high-profile Toronto police inspector with 30 years in the service has been arrested and charged with impaired driving.
Ontario health officials are reporting just over 700 new COVID-19 cases, as well as 11 more deaths due to the disease.
Quebecers across the province are set to take part in a Canada-wide demonstration to demand action be taken against climate change.
The COVID-19 outbreak at St. Mary's Hospital Centre in Montreal is getting worse.
"If he had been born a woman, Mr. Roberge would have been tossed out a long time ago by the premier, having demonstrated for three years that he was not up to the task," Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy said Friday.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is reporting 11 new COVID-19 cases Friday, but no new deaths.
The city and its community members are sending a clear message to students about gathering on Broughdale Avenue, as Saturday would normally bring large unsanctioned parties to the area
Waterloo regional police have launched a homicide investigation after a male was found dead in Kitchener early Friday morning.
Waterloo Region reported 29 more COVID-19 cases on Friday as the area's positivity rate continues to decline.
Students and alumni from Waterloo's post-secondary institutions are asked to avoid large, unsanctioned gatherings this Homecoming weekend.