'Throwing caution to the wind': Experts react to Alberta’s changing quarantine policy
After Alberta announced it would make sweeping changes to its COVID-19 response, including dropping mandatory isolation protocols, some experts from outside the province and across the border are calling it “irresponsible” and “dangerous.”
Starting Thursday, close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer be mandated to quarantine, but isolation will still be required for positive cases and people with symptoms.
On Aug. 16, those who test positive for COVID-19 will not be mandated to quarantine anymore, but the province will recommend it. Those with COVID-19 symptoms will not be required to get tested but asked to stay at home until they feel better.
- Alberta to eliminate COVID-19 quarantine rules as cases rise among the unvaccinated
- Dr. Hinshaw explains Alberta's easing of mandatory masks, isolation requirements
Alberta’s approach comes as countries with even higher overall vaccination rates, like Spain and the United Kingdom, are experiencing surges in infections leading to increased hospitalizations and deaths.
Ryan Imgrund, a COVID-19 biostatistician from Sudbury, Ont., working with public health units in the province, told CTV News that Alberta is an outlier when it comes to policy responding to the pandemic and reproductive values.
“The data and the science is definitely not guiding the policy in Alberta,” he said. “As far as I know right now, Alberta is the only place in the world that will be allowing COVID positive people to not have to self-isolate,” he added.
“The only place in the world. We are talking Florida, the United Kingdom; all those places, they not only require someone that is COVID positive to self-isolate, but they also require those that are close contacts to also isolate as well.”
Seventy-five per cent of the population aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine while 64.6 per cent of those eligible for vaccination are fully immunized.
‘WORRISOME’ APPROACH: EPIDEMIOLOGIST
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a U.S.-based epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said Alberta’s policy shifts caught his attention.
“This is really worrisome,” Feigl-Ding said. “Even if you are vaccinated, I know (Hinshaw) cited that there is a high vaccination rate, you can still get infected, and even if you are not hospitalized you can still transmit COVID-19.
“Long COVID is serious,” he added. “This is where to stop COVID transmission, to stop future variants, you have to stop the transmission chain. A positive person not isolating is just the worst possible recipe of keeping the virus still spreading.”
His biggest concern with the policy direction Alberta has announced is that quarantine rules will be relaxed at a time when case counts are rising and that the province has one of the highest reproductive values in Canada.
“They’re doing all this amid the highest, fastest surge in terms of rates of increase,” Feighl-Ding said. “It is antithetical to public health.”
OTHER PROVINCES KEEP QUARANTINE REQUIREMENTS
Saskatchewan has “Living with COVID” language in their public health policies like Alberta, but isolation requirements remain in effect.
“COVID-19 is a communicable disease reportable under the Public Health Act,” said Paul Merriman, Saskatchewan’s minister of health, in a statement to CTV News.
Merriman said that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 in Saskatchewan must self-isolate, or risk receiving a $2,800 fine.
“This direction has been and continues to be provided by public health officials to all individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
“As with all communicable diseases, contact traces from public health will follow up with anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 in order to conduct an investigation and provide counselling,” the minister added.
Meanwhile, British Columbia is reinstating masking restrictions in the province's central interior in the hopes of containing a COVID-19 outbreak.
The policy shifts around quarantining means the rate of community transmission could increase, Imgrund said.
“This is really going to really force this to become endemic. It is going to lead to a drastic increase in hospitalizations.”
For Imgrund, the step of removing quarantine requirements is not inevitable now, but six months from now — at the earliest.
“This is the next step when we are successfully able to vaccinate the under 12 population,” he shared. “This is not the next step when 55 per cent of a population have been vaccinated.”
- COVID-19 in Edmonton: Numbers broken down by neighbourhood
- COVID-19 cases in Calgary
- Infographics: COVID-19 in Alberta by the numbers
In Feigl-Ding’s view, Alberta’s policy is “irresponsible.”
“You know in the face of rising cases, surging cases, Alberta’s throwing caution to the wind,” he said.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Dan Grummett and Diego Romero
Edmonton Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
After the most expensive election in Canadian history resulted in little change politically, many are asking whether it was worth the $610-million price tag and where else that money could have been spent.
Inside hospitals across Saskatchewan, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, health-care workers are reporting a worsening crisis, with record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations pushing the health-care system to the brink.
Long-term care outbreaks are rising, and provinces have different strategies for keeping COVID-19 out
As the fourth wave continues across Canada and community spread climbs, outbreaks are also on the rise inside Canada’s long-term care homes, leading experts to stress the importance of staff being vaccinated — an issue which varies province to province.
A source close to the family of Brian Laundrie says Gabby Petito's fiance, who is now the subject of a federal warrant, left his parents' Florida home last Tuesday without his cell phone and wallet.
British actor Tom Felton, known for his portrayal of Draco Malfoy in the 'Harry Potter' movies, collapsed while playing a celebrity golf exhibition Thursday at the Ryder Cup.
Canadian fashion model Linda Evangelista says she's been left 'permanently deformed' from a cosmetic procedure that she had approximately five years ago.
The corporate entities of SNC-Lavalin Inc. and SNC-Lavalin International Inc., as well as two former senior executives of the Quebec-based firms have been charged with a series of fraud and forgery offences by the RCMP.
Canada saw only a slight increase in the volume of foreign nationals entering the country in the first week after the border opened to those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
An Ontario mother, who had been holding a one-woman protest for the past week to try to get help with her son's autism care, will finally have her file looked at after a call from the social services minister.
Alberta reported 1,660 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 new deaths on Thursday.
Alberta Health is investigating whether an Edson party advertising itself as a “get COVID” event to build up natural immunity to the virus actually happened.
Some Calgary businesses say while the new city vaccination bylaw doesn't change what they do, it does ease some of the pressure on front line staff.
Saskatchewan broke COVID-19 hospitalization records again on Thursday, reporting 273 patients in hospital with 58 in intensive care.
Saskatoon City Council will look at a committee recommendation to allow parking patios to operate through the winter, making them a year-round amenity.
A Saskatoon judge has ruled in favor allowing a father to have his child vaccinated despite the mother being opposed to her child getting the shot.
'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.
The Melville Millionaires have postponed hockey games until further notice after a positive COVID-19 case associated with the team.
Six-year-old Nygah Eashappie is pretty subdued about his newfound fame. The Regina boy is the latest to model in advertisements for local clothing brand; 22Fresh.
The first twenty-four hours following New Brunswick's rollout of new pandemic restrictions have been rocky for some of the businesses tasked with enforcing the new rules.
Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting the province’s 95th death related to COVID-19, along with 41 new cases and 20 recoveries on Thursday, as the number of active cases in the province rises to 147.
Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting 52 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with 35 recoveries, as the number of active cases in the province rises to 574.
A possible loophole in B.C.’s vaccine card registration system is making the rounds on social media.
The Vancouver Canucks are banking on the capacity limits at Rogers Arena being lifted in time for the regular season home opener.
In a significant upset, the long-time Conservative incumbent in Richmond Centre has lost her seat to a political newcomer, according to the CTV News Decision Desk.
An investigation into the shooting of a white cow moose in northern Ontario last fall has been closed and officials say no charges will be laid.
A 17-year-old from Greater Sudbury has been charged with attempted murder in connection with the stabbing of a woman downtown last week.
CTV News has learned Timmins police have a suspect in custody after one person was killed and two others were injured in a shooting in Schumacher overnight.
A Manitoba critical care doctor and infectious diseases specialist remains cautiously optimistic when it comes to the impact of the fourth wave in Manitoba.
A multi-car crash on a Manitoba highway on Wednesday resulted in police arresting a driver on impaired driving and weapon charges.
Five businesses in Manitoba received tickets last week for not following public health orders.
The cases were among 832 new cases found in B.C. over the past 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health.
The president of the Cedar Hill Golf Club says a report from District of Saanich staff recommending changes to the operation df Cedar Hill Golf Course will hurt the club and its members.
Health officials on Vancouver Island have declared clusters of COVID-19 at four more schools in the South Island. There are now five active clusters at schools in the region.
An Ontario man who had a faulty gas metre and racked up at $1,000 bill says was shocked when the was told he would still have to pay the bill.
Someone in Ontario won more than $21 million in Wednesday’s LOTTO 6/49 draw but has yet to check their ticket.
Unvaccinated MPPs could be prevented from entering Queen’s Park when the legislature resumes in October unless they get tested for COVID-19.
After just a few hours of debate, Quebec's National Assembly voted unanimously Thursday evening to pass a new bill that would prohibit anti-vaccine protesters from demonstrating near schools, daycares, and hospitals -- an offence punishable by a fine of up to $12,000.
Quebec kids were at the heart of a heated exchange Thursday over language laws -- specifically, English-speaking kids and whether they're really leaving school with functional French.
Amid major staff shortages, Quebec will cut large cheques to health-care workers in a bid to strengthen a public network put under serious pressure by the pandemic.
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is reporting that residents of the Saugeen First Nation were given expired doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for nearly a month before the error was caught.
Provincial police are investigating after one person was killed in a farming accident in Norfolk County.
Two families are fighting for the return of their dogs - one of them a service animal - seized by the municipality because they resemble pit bulls.
A former Kitchener MP has pleaded guilty to assault charges.
Waterloo Region’s big Bavarian festival officially kicks off on Friday.
Liberal incumbent Tim Louis will retain his seat in Kitchener-Conestoga.