Two days after Alberta recorded a record number of daily COVID-19 cases, Premier Jason Kenney was focused on highlighting more recent data that he said shows public health restrictions are working.
“It looks like we’ve flattened the curve. Not time yet to celebrate but the important thing is we’ve stopped the growth,” said Kenney, who was visibly pleased to see lower than usual case numbers for the second straight day.
Speaking to CTV News Edmonton anchor Geoff Hastings during a half-hour long year-end interview, the premier answered a range of mostly pandemic-related questions, including about his government’s handling of the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, unflattering poll numbers and Alberta’s vaccine rollout.
THE UP-AND-DOWN CURVE
The day of the interview, Wednesday, Dec. 16, Alberta announced 1,270 new cases of COVID-19.
The day before, it was 1,338. The positivity rate was 7.3 per cent after reaching double digits in early December. It was a pair of encouraging days following a Monday that saw the province announce 1,887 new cases, a single-day record (note: Monday’s number was later reconciled to 1,865). The week before fluctuated, averaging 1,658 cases per day.
For Kenney, it’s a sign that public health restrictions, the most stringent of which were introduced eight days before the interview, have been effective. But it’s the restrictions Kenney announced Nov. 24, which included a ban on indoor social gatherings, that he said is leading to the recent decrease in cases.
“We’re heading in the right direction, based on the policies that we adopted in November,” he said.
Kenney has faced widespread criticism, including from Alberta physicians, for not adopting stricter measures sooner. Doctors said the delay caused a preventable increase in COVID-19-related hospital and intensive care admissions — the latter of which have surged nearly 500 per cent since November 1.
On Dec. 7, the day before the newest measures were announced, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she found steadily rising COVID-19 numbers “extremely troubling” and that the Nov. 24 measures were “unlikely to be sufficient to bend the curve downwards.”
Nine days after those comments, Kenney, who acknowledges the criticism he has received, said he believes his government acted in a timely fashion.
“I think the current plateauing of numbers confirms that we did,” said Kenney.
The next day, Alberta recorded 1,571 cases, an increase from the day before.
Asked about recent polls that show his popularity second lowest among premiers in Canada, Kenney said he does not get distracted by polling and that he believed the numbers are a result of a “complex public opinion environment.”
“In most of the provinces you’ve got people who are pro restriction,” said Kenney.
“Here we’ve got a very large chunk of the population who are opposed to any of the restrictive measures that we’ve taken.”
Asked if he would do anything differently regarding the pandemic response plan, Kenney mentioned two things:
- The premier regrets classifying businesses as ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ back in March, saying it was a mistake that only benefitted large box stores. Kenney has publicly expressed this regret on multiple occasions.
- Kenney wishes the government had introduced this COVID-19 support program, announced Dec. 15, earlier.
That was the premier’s immediate response when asked whether he will be receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
“But I’ll take my turn, when it comes up, probably, with the general population,” he said.
Currently, Alberta is projecting to vaccinate the general population in the fall, but the ability to procure the requisite doses is in the hands of the federal government.
Still, Kenney is optimistic the timeline will move up.
“There is a good chance that we’ll be able to accelerate the vaccine program. There are a number of other vaccines that are in development and undergoing trials. If they succeed, and they are then approved by Health Canada, we’ll be getting more vaccines, more quickly.”
Kenney said a group of “hardcore anti-vaxxers” is telling him to take the vaccine immediately to prove it’s not dangerous, something he is not willing to jump the queue to do.
“I think it’s important for those who are skeptical to know that we’re not going to coerce people into taking the vaccine,” he said.
“So, we’ll be changing the law in February to remove the power of mandatory vaccination, just to try to relieve some of the political pressure coming from folks who are against vaccines.”
Staring down a projected $21.8-billion deficit due to what Kenney calls the “triple whammy” of the pandemic, global economic factors, and a decline in energy prices, the premier is still feeling optimistic about next year.
“There’s going to be a lot of pent up energy, a lot of savings, and people are going to want to go out there and spend and support those businesses that have been struggling,” Kenney predicted.
“And I really believe you’re going to see, especially in the latter half of 2021, a strong recovery in our economy.”
Kenney believes the continued vaccine rollout will trigger a “psychological shift” in behaviours as we head towards the fall of 2021.
“I think the vaccines showing up now before Christmas shows people that the end is within sight.”
Watch the full interview with Premier Kenney later this month on CTV News and CTVNewsEdmonton.ca.
Ontario Premier, COVID-19 vaccine team to speak as Pfizer dose deliveries slow to halt – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and members of his cabinet and vaccine distribution task force will speak Monday as the province enters the week without any new deliveries of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.
Pfizer, the larger of two suppliers of two approved COVID-19 vaccines to Canada, said last week it would drastically reduce deliveries to the EU and Canada in February as it retools a manufacturing plant in order to boost its annual output by 700 million doses.
As a result, Canada will receive no Pfizer vaccine doses this week and between 66- 80 per cent fewer than expected doses for much of February.
However, the federal government says Ontario will receive more than 81,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by Feb. 7.
News of the delivery slowdown has prompted the province to narrow its vaccination effort to long-term care homes and high risk retirement residences.
It has also prompted federal officials to allow a doubling of the gap between doses of the vaccine in certain circumstances.
Ford will be joined by Ret. Gen. Rick Hillier, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones at Queen’s Park this afternoon.
Ford has taken to assorted insults and threats to vent his frustration over the Pfizer delivery slowdown, calling the company’s official excuse about retooling a Belgian manufacturing plant “crap.”
When speaking about the delays last week, Ford, in reference to an unnamed Pfizer executive, said that he’d be “up that guy’s ying-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him.”
He has repeatedly publicly appealed to U.S. President Joe Biden to send Ontario one million of its Pfizer doses as a stop gap measure.
CP24 will broadcast Ford’s comments live at 1 p.m.
How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada's first case – CTV News
On January 25th, 2020, Canadians were still living their lives like they always had: commuting to the office, visiting friends, dining out, hugging loved ones, vacationing. But the announcement that day of Canada’s first COVID-19 case set in motion a chain of events that would soon change everything.
By March, with cases climbing, health officials began implementing a series of measures that would fundamentally alter how many Canadians live. Lockdowns and calls for physical distancing led to companies shifting to work from home, travel restrictions, mask-wearing rules, cancellation of major events, and video meetings replacing in-person interactions as people were asked to avoid seeing anyone, even loved ones.
Jack Jedwab, the president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says the biggest change to Canadians’ daily lives has been the isolation from friends, family and co-workers.
“I think at the root of a lot of that change is these limits on our mobility, which take different forms, whether it’s interacting with family and friends, or seeing people that we’re accustomed to seeing in our daily lives in person as opposed to on screens,” he said.
An online survey conducted for Jedwab’s group in September found that over 90 per cent of the 1,500 people polled said COVID-19 had changed their lives, with most citing the inability to see family and friends as the biggest factors.
While few Canadians have been untouched by the pandemic, Jedwab says women, newcomers to Canada and people who were already economically and socially vulnerable appear to have been among the most deeply affected, particularly by job losses.
Here’s a look at how COVID-19 has changed daily life for some Canadians of different groups:
For Bill VanGorder, a retired 78-year-old from Halifax, the pandemic put a temporary halt on his active social life and his favourite pastimes of volunteering in the local theatre and music scenes.
“Theatre people, as you may know, are people who love to hug, and not being able to hug in these times probably has been one of the most difficult things,” he said in a phone interview.
He considers himself lucky, because at least he and his wife Esther have each other, unlike many of his single friends who are completely isolated. Many older people, who are more at risk of severe complications from COVID-19, are struggling to stay connected with family or finding people to help them with household tasks.
VanGorder, who works with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, also believes unclear government messaging, particularly on when older adults will get access to the vaccine, is “creating huge anxiety and mistrust in the system,” among already-nervous seniors.
But while the pandemic has been hard, he says there have also been silver linings. He and many of his friends have been learning to use platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime, which help seniors stay in touch with relatives and connect with their communities.
“We think the positive thing is that, of course, this knowledge will continue after COVID and will be a real step forward, so that older adults can feel more involved in everything that’s going on around them,” he said.
The first thing he’ll do when things get back to normal is to hug his grandchildren and theatre friends, he said.
As classes have moved online, many students have had to adapt to living and studying in small spaces and being isolated from friends and campus life at a stage when forging lifelong friendships and social networks can be crucial.
Small living quarters, the inability to travel home, financial fears and uncertainties about the job market have contributed to a “greater sense of isolation” for many students, according to Bryn de Chastelain, an Ontario resident studying at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
While he believes schools have done their best to support students, de Chastelain says many students have seen their mental health suffer.
“A number of students are really struggling with having to learn from home and learn online, and I think that a number of strategies that students are used to taking up are very difficult to replicate in the online environment,” he said.
Schools across the country were shut down for several months in the spring, ushering in a challenging time for parents who were suddenly forced to juggle full-time child care, work and keeping their families safe.
The reopening of schools in the fall brought different challenges depending on each province’s COVID-19 situation and approach. In Ontario, some parents opted for full-time online learning, while others were forced into it when Premier Doug Ford chose to extend the winter break. In Quebec, which doesn’t allow a remote option for most students, some reluctant parents had no choice but to send their children back to class.
“I think uncertainty, not only for kids but for everything — work, life relationships and everything — that has certainly been the theme of COVID,” said Doug Liberman, a Montreal-area father of two.
Liberman said the biggest challenge has been trying to balance the health and safety of his family with keeping his food manufacturing business going and maintaining a sense of normalcy for his two girls, ages 10 and 12.
For his family, that has meant trying to spend time outside but also accepting more screen time, and ultimately, taking things day-by-day.
“I certainly think that we certainly don’t have the answer, and I think we’ve done as best as we could, like everybody else has,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020.
Alberta reports 24 COVID-19-related deaths Sunday, including woman in her 40s – Global News
Alberta Health reported an additional 24 deaths related to COVID-19 and 463 cases of the virus in the province on Sunday.
The positive cases came from 10,237 new tests over a 24-hour period, giving a provincial positivity rate of 4.4 per cent.
The active case numbers in the province sat at 9,727 on Sunday.
Hospitalizations were down slightly, with 652 people in hospital — 111 of whom in intensive care.
Sixteen of the 24 deaths were reported in the Edmonton zone:
- A woman in her 40s, a man in his 70s, a man in his 90s and two women in their 80s not linked to an outbreak. Comorbidities were unknown in the case involving the man in his 70s and one of the women in her 80s, while the other three deaths involved comorbidities.
- A woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Misericordia Hospital whose death included comorbidities.
- A man in his 50s linked to the outbreak at Salvation Army Stepping Stones supportive residence whose death did not involve comorbidities.
- A man in his 70s and a man in his 80s, both linked to the outbreak at Youville Home. Both had comorbidities.
- A woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Laurier House Lynwood whose death included comorbidities.
- A woman in her 80s and a woman in her 60s, both linked to the outbreak at Capital Care Lynwood. Both had comorbidities.
- A woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at Chartwell St. Albert Retirement Residence whose death included comorbidities.
- A man in his 80s and a woman in her 80s, both linked to the outbreak at Jubilee Lodge Nursing Home. Both had comorbidities.
- A woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre whose death included comorbidities.
Five deaths were reported in the North zone, all of which included comorbidities:
- A woman in her 70s linked to the outbreak at Mayerthorpe Healthcare Centre.
- A woman in her 90s and a man in his 80s, both linked to the outbreak at Grande Prairie Care Centre.
- A man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Prairie Lake Supportive Living.
- A man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Edson Continuing Care Centre.
There were two deaths in the Calgary zone: a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Revera Edgemont and a woman in her 60s. Both cases included comorbidities.
A man in his 90s passed away in the Central zone. His death was linked to the outbreak at Seasons Camrose and included comorbidities.
Coronavirus: Hinshaw touts safety of both COVID-19 vaccines
According to the provincial numbers, a total of 99,047 Albertans received vaccine doses as of Jan. 23.
Alberta Health confirmed the province received a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine last week. That shipment included 21,450 doses.
“With 96,500 doses of vaccine delivered, thousands of the most vulnerable seniors and health-care workers now have an extra layer of protection,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday.
“If not, they’ll continue to be eligible and will receive it as soon as possible after that.”
Hinshaw said Alberta was working with the federal government and other provinces to use current allocations “as wisely as possible.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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