Naheed Nenshi calls for province to do more as Alberta's COVID-19 numbers surge
'It’s not like we didn’t know this was going to happen,' Calgary mayor says
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is calling on the province to provide a clearer picture about the COVID-19 situation as infection numbers continue to rise.
Alberta surpassed the 1,000 new daily case mark for the first time in months as the province reported 1,076 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
There are now 284 people being treated in hospital for COVID-19, including 59 in ICU. Just one week ago, there were 184 people being treated in hospital for COVID-19.
There are 8,496 active cases across Alberta as of Wednesday — an increase of 565 from the previous day — which is more than double the number of cases in Quebec, a province with almost twice the population, and about 3,000 cases more than Ontario, which has nearly 3.5 times the population.
"This is deeply troubling," Nenshi said as he appeared at a Calgary Pride event Thursday.
Last week, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, apologized for the delay in releasing a report detailing the public health data and modelling that was used to justify controversial loosening of the province's pandemic response.
Nenshi said he finds it shocking that the modelling has still not been released. But he said he has seen projections prepared by academics outside the government that predicted the fourth wave would strike as badly as it has.
"It's not like we didn't know this was going to happen," he said.
Sarah Otto, a professor in the department of zoology at the University of British Columbia, is part of the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group. It also projects COVID-19 numbers for other provinces, including Alberta.
"No matter which model you look at, we're seeing exponential growth right now," said Otto.
Based on modelling, she estimated the doubling time for case numbers and hospitalization numbers in Alberta is 8½ days. With a daily case count of 1,076 on Wednesday, that means in just over one week there could be 2,000 new cases in a day.
"Either Alberta is going to walk into a full explosion of cases and an overwhelming of health care, or they're going to have to act and institute the types of measures that we're seeing now in British Columbia," said Otto.
"Just letting COVID run its course is too dangerous for Alberta."
Nenshi also said he is dismayed that Albertans haven't heard from the premier or Dr. Hinshaw in weeks.
"And the provincial government's cavalier attitude towards this through the summer — 'best summer ever,' remember that? — is really, really troubling," Nenshi said.
"Because, ultimately, we've got to make sure that kids can go back to school safely. The school boards have been left on their own to figure that out."
An email from Premier Jason Kenney's office said that Kenney is on holidays for two weeks. His vacation ends next week.
The email said that in the meantime, Kenney is "still able to fully communicate with his cabinet and senior officials as required. In fact, he has participated in numerous briefings on important subjects — including on COVID-19 — while 'on holidays.'"
It did not say if Kenney plans to address the province regarding COVID numbers ahead of the school year.
Nenshi said that at the municipal level, city employees are already required to be vaccinated or under rapid testing, and city facilities and transit continue to require people to wear a mask.
He said the question of whether it's time to reinstate a citywide mask mandate is being discussed among council members and the business community.
"So we'll continue having those conversations. If we need to call a special meeting of city council in the next few weeks, we will," he said.
"Otherwise, council meets two weeks from Monday and we can have a conversation then."