Albertans can expect stronger public health measures to be announced Tuesday: premier
Teachers, child-care workers added to list of people eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
As COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb, Albertans can expect an announcement on Tuesday about stronger public health measures, Premier Jason Kenney says.
Kenney told a news conference on Monday that he was angered to see that a large group of people gathered over the weekend at a rodeo event in Bowden, Alta., in flagrant violation of the restrictions in place.
"Given the issues we saw this weekend and the record-high cases reporting, we are developing a package of stronger public health measures, which I expect to announce tomorrow," he said.
Grilled by reporters about his response to the pandemic's third wave, Kenney said his government continues to take the broad view that public health measures must be balanced against economic considerations.
"The reason we are at this critical stage of the pandemic in Alberta — with record-high daily case counts and intensive care numbers — is precisely because for whatever reason, too many Albertans are ignoring the rules that we have in place," he said.
Kenney said Alberta has essentially the same rules in place as British Columbia and Saskatchewan. "Their case counts are going down while ours are going up," he said.
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"This is incredibly frustrating for all of us. And this is why I am imploring all Albertans to take this seriously. I said ... last Thursday that if Albertans are not willing to do what's right, even though it's hard, then we will be forced to take further steps."
Those further steps are likely to be announced Tuesday, he said.
Government has 'sought to avoid' tougher rules
Alberta could have the hardest lockdown imaginable, Kenney said, but if a large portion of the population refuses to follow the guidelines, rules would have little impact on case numbers.
He put that down to a "behavioural difference" between Albertans and those in neighbouring provinces.
"Clearly, what's happening right now cannot continue, and that's why we may be left with no tools left in the toolbox apart from broader, tougher restrictions — restrictions that we have sought to avoid but which may be necessary."
The premier also announced that all teachers and school support staff and all child-care workers will able to book appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday.
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Kenney said the provincial government estimates that more than 60 per cent of teachers and child-care workers and support staff workers have already been able to get the vaccine because of an age-based rollout.
Vaccines will be given out on the honour system, he said.
"We're watching our vaccine supply carefully and expect to open Phase 3 to bookings for the general population over the age of 16 in the very near future," Kenney said.
Active cases highest since start of pandemic
The province reported 2,012 new cases on Monday and four more deaths. Across Alberta, 658 people were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, including 154 in intensive care beds. Alberta identified another 1,900 variant cases. Variants now make up 64 per cent of active cases.
The province reported 23,608 active cases on Monday, the highest total since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Referring to the rodeo over the weekend, Kenney said those who took part were violating what he called "common-sense" public health measures.
"That event was organized by people who simply don't care," he said. "Apparently they don't care about COVID, and they don't care about the sacrifices that millions of Albertans are making every single day."
Alberta has the highest active case rate in Canada, with 508 active cases per 100,000 people — twice that of the next highest rate of 252 in Ontario.
The government last week imposed new public health measures in hot spots across the province where there are more than 350 active cases per 100,000 people and at least 250 total active cases.
The list of targeted communities includes Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Airdrie, Lethbridge, Strathcona County, Okotoks and Rocky View County.