Dr. Hinshaw explains Alberta's easing of mandatory masks, isolation requirements

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health hosted an information session following the province's announcement it was changing its COVID-19 public health response. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Wednesday afternoon the province would begin to handle COVID-19 like it handles other respiratory viruses, dropping its mask mandate, removing isolation and quarantining requirements, and ending asymomptomatic and close-contact COVID-19 testing in phases. 

During an information session, she cited Alberta’s widespread vaccination rates as a reason for the new approach. According to Alberta Health, up to 95 per cent of all COVID-19 cases since July 1 have been people who were unvaccinated. Unvaccinated Albertans were also 94 per cent of COVID-19 cases who needed hospital care and 95 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths, since July 1. 

“This is a major, major shift,” Hinshaw told her live audience. “We’re asking people to integrate that risk of COVID-19 into other risks and to not see it as the primary number one risk that all other things are secondary to.”

The top doctor says there will be a surge in other respiratory viruses come fall, and the province is shifting away from treating COVID-19 as the highest risk but rather one risk among many.

“We only have a limited amount of resources,” said Hinshaw. “And if all we focus on is COVID-19, we’re allowing many other things to go without intervention. From a population level, that’s going cause more harm than good.”

RISE IN CASES, CONCERN

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."