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Alberta government risks public buy-in on COVID-19 by withholding info: Opposition – Lethbridge Herald

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By Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press on November 20, 2020.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney makes an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Alberta’s Opposition NDP says if Premier Jason Kenney’s government wants to ensure public buy-in on their targeted COVID-19 health restrictions, they need to start showing their work. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

EDMONTON – Alberta’s Opposition says Premier Jason Kenney’s government needs to start showing its hand if it wants to ensure public buy-in on targeted COVID-19 health restrictions.

NDP health critic David Shepherd says the public is not getting the reasons and evidence behind the decisions to shut down some businesses but not others.

“Jason Kenney is keeping Albertans in the dark,” Shepherd said Friday. “We don’t have an explanation for why they chose those particular businesses.

“If this premier won’t take it seriously (enough) that he’s willing to communicate openly and honestly with the people of Alberta, then we’re going to get what we have now, where we have, unfortunately, too low a level of compliance of even the most basic of things.”

COVID-19 cases have been rising alarmingly for weeks in Alberta. The caseload has overwhelmed contact tracing and strained the health-care system.

On Thursday, Alberta set a sobering single-day record with 1,105 new cases. There were 284 people in hospital, 61 of them in intensive care.

Because contact tracing can’t keep up, officials don’t know where 80 per cent of the 10,382 active infections were contracted.

Kenney announced tighter health restrictions a week ago that affect some parts of communities and the economy. Restaurants and retailers, schools and places of worship remain open with some restrictions.

Large gyms and recreation centres also remain open, but fitness studios and indoor organized team sports and group arts performances were shut down for two weeks in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.

Areas with high case concerns – including Edmonton, Calgary and surrounding areas ““ have a 15-person limit on public gatherings and a 50-person limit on weddings and funerals. Bars and restaurants that serve liquor must stop by 10 p.m. and close an hour later.

The province has delivered some rationale for the changes. Kenney has said few cases are coming from indoor dining, but he instituted the liquor deadline because some restaurants were flouting the rules and transforming into late-night, super-spreader party zones.

He has also said that household gatherings and get-togethers are responsible for 40 per cent of new cases.

Some fitness studios stated this week they have gone above and beyond to keep COVID-19 free and they don’t understand why they are now being targeted.

The government says the ban on team sports was to avoid close contact among participants, but no similar ban was put in place for worship services. The province has asked faith-based gatherings to be limited to one-third capacity, but that remains voluntary.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical health officer, said Wednesday she was distressed to hear that some sports teams are moving outside the cities to keep playing and some fitness studios are skirting the rules by replacing live instructors with videos.

On Thursday, NDP critic Rod Loyola asked Health Minister Tyler Shandro for evidence underlying last week’s orders, suggesting they appear arbitrary and unfair.

“These (fitness) club owners are not against public health orders, but they do not deserve to be closed just so that this premier appears to be taking COVID-19 seriously,” said Loyola.

“What evidence do you have for closing them over other businesses? How many cases were linked to these studios and how many cases will this order prevent?”

Shandro urged Loyola to check with Hinshaw as the fitness studio closure was on her recommendation: “There were three super-spreader events that happened in group fitness. That was the concern that Dr. Hinshaw had.”

Shepherd also renewed a call for the government to release updated modelling data on where COVID-19 is going in Alberta. The last modelling came out in the spring.

He also renewed a call for Alberta to make masks mandatory in all public indoor spaces in areas with high case counts.

The province has a patchwork of mask-wearing rules driven by municipalities and is the only one without a provincial directive.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2020.

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Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue – Chemainus Valley Courier

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The country’s top doctor is asking Canadians to limit their contacts and gatherings as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in several provinces.

In a statement released Sunday (Nov. 29), chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said there has been an average of 5,335 new cases daily over the past week, compared to 4,739 daily new cases from Nov. 13-19.

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior, while the positivity rate has increased from 6.6 per cent to 7.6 per cent. The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 has increased to 2,111 from Nov. 20 to 26, up from 1,840 the week prior. The number of ICU patients treated daily jumped from 376 to 432 over the same time period, while average daily deaths increased by five to 76.

“More and larger outbreaks are occurring in long term care homes, congregate living settings and hospitals, and spreading in Indigenous communities and more remote areas of the country,” Tam said. “These developments are deeply concerning as they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruptions to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies.”

Tam said that this time period was crucial, as the weather continues to get colder across the country and gathering indoors becomes more tempting.

“Avoid or limit time spent in the 3Cs – closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings and situations,” she said, as well as urging people to wear masks, stay home if they are sick and wash their hands frequently.

In total, Canada has reported 370,278 confirmed cases and 12,032 deaths due to COVID-19.

B.C. recorded a record-breaking 911 cases on Friday, the last day of a week that has proven to be its deadliest of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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Kenney quiet on protesters after issuing COVID-19 'wake up call' to South Asian community – CTV Edmonton

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EDMONTON —
Alberta’s premier is not commenting on hundreds of protesters who gathered in defiance of COVID-19 rules Saturday.

This after Jason Kenney delivered a “wake up call” to Calgary’s South Asian community last week – in what the NDP said Sunday was “scapegoating” one group an ignoring the other.

“We see a very high level of spread of COVID-19 in the South Asian community. And I don’t say that to blame or target anyone,” Kenney said during a RedFM phone interview posted online Wednesday.

“We know that it’s a tradition to have big family gatherings at home and we think this is one of the reasons why we have seen a much higher level spread in the community than other parts of the population,” he told host Rishi Nagar, who said the high case numbers could be attributed to the fact many in the community work service jobs outside of their homes.

Kenney said he had friends in the South Asian community and referred to a “strong, strong sense of family and hospitality” as “beautiful” – but asked that provincial restrictions be respected.

“I’m calling your program with a wake up call. We must, must have people understand the new law is no social functions at home,” Kenney said.

Backlash on social media was swift. 

PREMIER MUM ON PROTESTERS

On Saturday, hundreds of Albertans gathered in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer in defiance of a ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

It appeared that no tickets were handed out during those gatherings – and Kenney did not tweet or provide a statement about the protests.

“Jason Kenney and the UCP did not condemn anti-mask rally in Calgary. They did not enforce 10 people gathering restriction enforceable with a $1,000 fine. And, now this premier has the audacity to scapegoat and give ‘wake up call’ to Northeast communities,” NDP MLA Irfan Sabir said in a Sunday evening tweet.

Last week, the premier said he was concerned about a “backlash” from rural Albertans if he made masking requirements province-wide.

A spokesperson for Kenney did not answer specific questions about this story Sunday night, but referred CTV News Edmonton to an earlier statement from Alberta Justice.

“Municipal law enforcement, like the Calgary Police Service, operate independently of the Minister of Justice,” said Blaise Boehmer, press secretary for Alberta Justice.

“The provincial government respects the operational enforcement decision-making of Calgary Police Service, while balancing the Charter right to free expression and assembly.”

A full list of COVID19 restrictions can be found online. 

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COVID-19: 1,708 new cases in Ontario – Simcoe Reformer

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Ottawa Public Health reported 79 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday and two new deaths, bringing the city’s totals to 8,458 and 374, respectively, since January.

A total of 343 cases, according to Sunday’s figures, remain active. Meanwhile, 22 people were being treated for COVID-19 in Ottawa hospitals, one of them in intensive care.

Twenty-one health-care institutions are currently experiencing outbreaks, as are three child-care or educational centres. There are also four active community outbreaks, an increase of one from the previous day’s report.

Ontario

Ontario reported 1,708 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, more than 100 fewer than the 1,822 from a day earlier, and almost 150 fewer than the daily record of 1,855 set on Friday.

The new cases, which include those reported through Saturday afternoon, bring the total in the province to 114,746 since January.

Peel and Toronto remained the worst-hit areas, with 503 and 463 confirmed new cases, respectively.

The province also reported 24 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing Ontario’s total to 3,648 since January.

In addition to the 79 new cases in Ottawa, 24 new cases were reported elsewhere in Eastern Ontario, including 10 by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, and five each through Hastings Prince Edward Public Health and Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit reported four new cases, while the Renfrew County and District Health Unit reported no new cases.

The province also reported 586 Ontarians hospitalized with COVID-19, but added that the number may be skewed low by the fact that approximately 40 hospitals did not complete the Daily Bed Census on Friday.

Quebec

Quebec on Sunday reported 1,395 new COVID-19 cases and four new deaths, bringing the province’s total to 141,038 cases and 7,025 deaths since January.

COVID-19 hospitalizations reduced slightly from Saturday’s report, with 665 Quebecers being treated for the pandemic illness. Of those, 92 are in intensive care.

Meanwhile, the Outaouais reported 30 new cases and no new deaths.

The region has reported 3,554 cases and 80 deaths since the pandemic began.

COVID-19 BY THE NUMBERS

Ottawa

79: New cases
8,458: Total cases
2: New deaths
374: Total deaths
343: Active cases
22: Hospitalized
1: In ICU
7,741: Cases resolved

Ontario

1,708: New cases
114,746: Total cases
24: New deaths
3,648: Total deaths
586: Hospitalized
97,319: Cases resolved

(As of Nov. 28)

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