Alberta eyes changes to support sick workers as coronavirus cases reach 19

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his government is looking to change workplace rules for employees who may need time off to isolate themselves during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Kenney says the province is eyeing regulatory changes so workers would no longer need a doctor’s note to be able to stay at home after showing symptoms.

“We don’t want people who might be sick going into medical clinics and seeing their doctors,” Kenney said in Calgary on Wednesday before flying to Ottawa for a first ministers meeting.

“We’re looking at a whole suite of measures in terms of regulatory changes to better support folks who may need to stay home.”

One question is whether there needs to be legal clarification to prevent employers from laying off people who are isolating themselves at home, Kenney said.

But he added: “I trust Alberta employers. They’re not going to penalize people for doing what’s responsible in terms of their public health.”

Gil McGowan, head of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said he appreciates steps the province is taking but more needs to be done.

He said the government can’t just guarantee those who return from self-isolation will still have their jobs. It must also make sure they get paid during that time at home.

“Fourteen days is a long time to go without income, especially for people who are on low income and living paycheque to paycheque and, frankly, that is a lot of Albertans,” McGowan said in Edmonton.

Also Wednesday, chief medical health officer Deena Hinshaw announced five new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Alberta, bringing the total to 19.

Hinshaw said the cases include an Edmonton man in his 30s, who underwent recent unrelated treatment at the city’s Misericordia Hospital before testing positive for the virus on Monday.

Hinshaw said the man is self-isolating and anyone who might have come into contact with him is being notified.

“There is no risk to patients or staff at the hospital at this time,” Hinshaw said in a news conference. “There is no need for anyone else who may have attended the Misericordia or other hospital sites to be concerned or take additional action.”

The other four cases involve a man and two women from the Calgary area and a woman in central Alberta.

Hinshaw said the risk of contracting the virus remains low, but anyone returning from Italy in the last two weeks should self-isolate.

It is also becoming harder for doctors to order protective supplies like masks, Hinshaw added, and priority for the items will be given to family doctors doing testing for COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is rolling out a $1-billion package to help the country’s health-care system and economy cope with the outbreak, which has resulted in more than 100 cases nationwide and has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Kenney said he appreciates any additional money. He had not seen any details of the federal plan, but said such funding normally is on a per capita basis, meaning about $60 million for Alberta.

“Our initial estimate of (Alberta’s) prospective costs to the health system of the coronavirus is in the range of $80 million, so it doesn’t cover that,” said Kenney.

“If the virus spreads at a level beyond what we’re currently estimating, the costs will be significantly higher.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2020

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Non-profits that are helping people impacted by COVID-19 can apply for relief funding

Red Deer and District FCSS can draw from a provincial pot of $30 million

Bank of Canada cuts key interest rate target while Libs up wage subsidy

OTTAWA — Canada’s central bank made yet another unscheduled rate cut Friday… Continue reading

A message from the Advocate publisher

In good times and bad, The Red Deer Advocate has been here… Continue reading

No Alberta renter will be evicted for non-payment on April 1, promises the premier

No evictions during the entire Alberta public health emergency

WATCH: COVID-19 doesn’t stop Red Deer Public Library from telling stories

Deb Isbister has been reading stories to children for more than 20… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

A message from Central Alberta Co-op

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge that’s having a real impact… Continue reading

4 passengers dead aboard cruise ship anchored off Panama

4 passengers dead aboard cruise ship anchored off Panama

Drumheller Institution in Alberta locked down, two inmates tested for COVID-19

Drumheller Institution in Alberta locked down, two inmates tested for COVID-19

Alberta’s premier rejects call to fire health minister over abuse of citizens

Alberta’s premier rejects call to fire health minister over abuse of citizens

Trump boosts virus aid, warns governors to be ‘appreciative’

Trump boosts virus aid, warns governors to be ‘appreciative’

Marc Miller urges First Nations to delay elections during COVID-19 crisis

Marc Miller urges First Nations to delay elections during COVID-19 crisis

Most Read