Alberta Premier Jason Kenney makes his way to the chamber as the Alberta Legislature sits through the weekend to pass a series of emergency bills, in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association is calling on the Government of Alberta to reinstate COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolation requirements to control viral spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta’s top doctor apologizes for causing ‘confusion, fear or anger’ on COVID-19

CALGARY — Alberta’s top doctor is apologizing for causing “confusion, fear or anger” after communicating the province’s plan to eliminate remaining public health measures.

In a column sent to various media outlets Wednesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says her words have caused some people to think she believes COVID-19 is over.

Hinshaw says that was not her intended message.

She says lifting isolation requirements, asymptomatic testing and eliminating contact tracing will support the whole health of Albertans, by allowing the province to focus on other health threats, such as opioid deaths and syphilis.

She says isolation measures were incredibly disruptive and are no longer necessary with vaccine protection.

Hinshaw also notes the threat to children’s health, especially those under 12 who are not eligible to get vaccinated, is low and should be considered among a range of other risks.

“COVID-19 is a wicked problem; experts don’t always agree on the exact nature of the problem, much less the best approach. But it is not the only wicked problem we are facing together,” writes Hinshaw.

“In addressing these complex issues, we are best served by trying to understand each other’s perspectives, engaging in respectful dialogue and continuing to assess our approach.”

Close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 are no longer being notified by contact tracers, nor are they required to isolate. Starting Aug. 16, infected individuals will no longer be legally required to isolate either.

Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro have said lifting the restrictions was Hinshaw’s idea and they agreed with her plan. But the move has come under fire from medical experts across the country.

In an open letter earlier Wednesday, a group of 10 physicians from the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association says Alberta is going against the advice from Health Canada, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

The letter also draws attention to threats posed by the COVID-19 Delta variant and the potential for pediatric and adult intensive care units to become overwhelmed should Alberta continue with its approach.

The group asks the province to review existing data and provide sound evidence before weakening COVID-19 control measures.

“We are concerned with the rapid speed of these changes and that you have provided no scientific data to Albertans to justify these unprecedented actions,” says the letter.

“There are repetitive waves of COVID-19 variants moving around the world and we have not yet reached a safe state with a constant low level of virus in our community.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2021.

Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press