Leaders meet, top doctor breaks silence as Alberta returns to Phase 1
As variant COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb in Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney and the emergency management cabinet committee moved their meeting a day earlier to Tuesday and Dr. Deena Hinshaw delivered an update later in the afternoon.
The province's chief medical officer of health had not spoken in public since just before the Easter long weekend.
The meeting and announcement come amid increasing calls from some health professionals and the NDP opposition for the reintroduction of stricter restrictions as variants currently account for nearly 40 per cent of all new cases.
In a detailed media release, Alberta reported 887 new infections on Monday, marking the sixth straight update where more than 850 new cases were reported.
There are now 10,582 active cases in the province and 4,145 are variants.
While 99 per cent of variants detected are the B.1.1.7 strain, recent outbreaks of the P.1 strain, first identified in Brazil, is cause for concern.
PTW Canada has confirmed three of its employees have been infected with the P.1 variant of COVID-19. The company said the cases were at their Drayton Valley, Edson and Hinton offices.
Another P.1 strain was discovered at a Calgary workplace bringing the total in Alberta to 15, 12 of which are in the Calgary zone.
NDP leader Rachel Notley says she wants to see the province return the public health restrictions to mid-January levels.
"Albertans are watching premiers across this country put in measures to keep their residents safe, yet we're not hearing from the (Alberta) premier."
The move would bring an end to in-person dining at restaurants but take-out and deliver would be permitted, and shutter group fitness. Some personal services like hair-styling could be booked by appointment only.
Notley also says the government should provide financial support for businesses and workers by using unused funds that had been earmarked for stimulus.
"Right now, we need public health measures to help keep us, as a population, safe from these variants that happen to transmit a little bit more than the previous one did," said family physician Adam Vyse.
An infectious disease expert says time is running out to take action against spiking variants.
"This is a tipping point that’s really concerning and we can’t wait too much longer in terms of putting things in place to start turning it around," said Dr. Lynora Saxinger of the University of Alberta.
"I think if we get too far behind here we will be looking at increasing numbers of hospitalization including hospitalization of younger people getting seriously ill."
All of the variant strains are considered more contagious and more likely to cause severe outcomes in younger people than the initial strain.
On Tuesday, the province announced that Alberta is reverting to Step 1 of restrictions and will shut down indoor dining as cases of the COVID-19 variants of concern increase across the province.