Alberta won't 'micromanage' businesses as COVID-19 infections climb: Kenney
Province has among least restrictive public health measures in North America, premier says
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says a recent rise in active COVID-19 cases in the province is concerning, but government micromanaging isn't the answer to curbing the spread.
Kenney said Wednesday Alberta has the right set of public health measures in place and his government wants to avoid burdening business owners with added restrictions.
His remarks came a day after British Columbia's top doctor ordered new restrictions on establishments that serve alcohol in response to a spike in cases there linked to those venues. Those restrictions include shutting down nightclubs and banquet halls, earlier closures at bars and restaurants and sound limits so patrons don't need to speak loudly.
B.C. had 1,386 active COVID-19 cases out of a population of 5.1 million as of Tuesday, while Alberta reported 1,692 active cases out of a population of 4.4 million in its most recent update.
Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Wednesday Alberta will not at this time be following B.C.'s approach by specifically closing certain businesses to contain the spread of COVID-19 cases.
"We have not found one particular type of business or location where we think that creating those additional restrictions would reduce our daily case numbers," she said.
WATCH | Kenney says province wants to avoid new COVID-19 restrictions:
"Rather, it seems the majority of our new cases are coming from close contact, household transmission, social gatherings or other type of events that aren't necessarily easily controlled by formal public health restrictions or measures."
Hinshaw mentioned she will meet with faith leaders in the province to remind them of health guidelines after the province saw a few outbreaks at religious gatherings.
Kenney said Alberta should be proud that it has among the least restrictive public health measures in North America, while keeping coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations low.
Since June, the province has had no cap on the number of people allowed in restaurants, cafes, lounges and bars, provided public health measures are being followed. Unlike B.C., nightclubs in Alberta have never reopened.
"We should be concerned about recent increases in the total number of active cases," Kenney said Wednesday.
"But ultimately, Alberta's belief was that we're not going to micromanage our way out of this. We're only going to get through this if people exercise personal responsibility and that's what we call on Albertans to do."
Other provinces are taking a similar approach to Alberta.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford said the province isn't currently considering rolling back reopenings on a provincial level, but noted that individual regions have the option to enact measures like shutting bars early.
Montreal's director of public health Dr. Mylène Drouin said Wednesday public health wants to avoid having to limit activities and gatherings or close bars.
"Yes, we can have social activities, but we have to reduce contacts to be able to reduce secondary transmission," Drouin said.
Back in Alberta, Kenney said his government is focused on not just saving lives, but livelihoods.
"We want to do everything we possibly can to avoid jerking around people, indiscriminately shutting down their businesses, their jobs and their livelihoods," Kenney said.
"Because the ultimate downstream consequences of constantly shutting down businesses and laying people off will be depression, potentially addiction, huge family challenges, pushing people into poverty — and that is unacceptable."
With files from Stephanie Dubois