A nurse prepares to give the first COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in Edmonton on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Doctors urge Alberta to hold off on easing COVID-19 restrictions next week

Doctors urge Alberta to hold off on easing COVID-19 restrictions next week

EDMONTON — A group of health professionals is urging the Alberta government not to ease COVID-19 restrictions next week and to instead toughen measures for bars, restaurants and pubs.

Two doctors who co-chair the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s pandemic committee made the plea in a statement released Friday.

“The health care system and the population, after having been stressed for so long, really can’t tolerate another surge before the end of our vaccination campaign,” said Dr. Noel Gibney and Dr. James Talbot, noting it will be months before all at-risk Albertans are inoculated.

“Any further easing of COVID-19 restrictions should only be undertaken when all high-risk individuals in the province have been immunized. We have a short window remaining to prevent another surge and protect Albertans, but it is rapidly closing.”

Gibney and Talbot said that new daily active cases have stopped decreasing and the number of new infections that result from each case is growing. A new, more transmissible variant first found in the United Kingdom could cause rapid increases if it becomes the dominant strain, they said.

The doctors added the province should close bars, restaurants and pubs to indoor service, or at least put a meaningful cap on capacity and enforce the current restrictions.

“It is clear that many bars, pubs and restaurants are not obeying the current restrictions that are in place. They are overcrowded, not enforcing same household rules and are over safe capacity at peak times,” they said.

“This is an extreme risk for a third wave with the original COVID-19 strain and is even higher risk for the more transmissible U.K. variant.”

The doctors also note it will be months before all at-risk Albertans are vaccinated.

The Alberta government could as soon as Monday ease restrictions on retail businesses, banquet halls, community halls, conference centres, hotels, indoor fitness and children’s sport and performance activities.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has to be below 450 in order for the next reopening phase to go ahead, and numbers have been below that for under a month.

But the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has said the next reopening phase is not a done deal because the test positivity rate and other so-called leading indicators are rising.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province still needs to review the latest data before making a decision, but new daily cases have so far not been rising at a rate that would raise alarm.

Nor has Shandro seen anything that would warrant clamping down on eating and drinking establishments.

“But if that ever was brought to my attention by Dr. Hinshaw, of course we would want to work with her in being able to address any community spread that we have in the smartest and most targeted, narrow way that we can.”

Alberta on Friday recorded 356 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths.

There were 269 people in hospital, including 55 in intensive care.

The test positivity rate was 3.9 per cent.

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

The interchange at Highway 2 and McKenzie Road at the south end of Gasoline Alley is being redesigned with two roundabouts. Construction is expected to begin this month and finish in October. (Graphic from Red Deer County)
Roudabouts coming to McKenzie Road overpass at Gasoline Alley

Project expected to improve traffic flow at busy intersections

A federal strategy to preserve threatened trout could conflict with provincial coal leases in the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. (Contributed photo by Jeff Lund).
Federal regulations could save Alberta’s bull trout by shutting down mining plans, says biologist

Ottawa’s new strategy identifies a 30-metre protected area along rivers and streams

(Contributed image)
Wolf Creek Public Schools will not participate in curriculum pilot

Central Alberta school jurisdiction joins others across Alberta

Canada's Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, fom left, celebrate after winning women's gold medal match against Brazil's team at the Beach Volley Worldtour Major Series, in Vienna, Austria on August 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ronald Zak
Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) gets fouled by Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu throws to a New York Yankees batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau (13) scores the game winning goal on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender David Rittich (33) in overtime NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Canada's Evelyne Viens celebrates scoring against Wales during the women's international friendly soccer match at Leckwith Stadium, Wales, Friday April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nick Potts/PA via AP
Canada capitalizes on England mistakes to win women’s soccer friendly 2-0

Canada capitalizes on England mistakes to win women’s soccer friendly 2-0

After weekend hiccup at men’s worlds, Grand Slams move into curling bubble

After weekend hiccup at men’s worlds, Grand Slams move into curling bubble

Erickson Gallardo of Canada's Toronto FC and his teammates celebrate after Andres Mosquera of Mexico's Leon scored an own goal during their Concacaf Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRES/AP/Mario Armas
Toronto FC gets vaccine boost but injury list still an issue ahead of Leon rematch

Toronto FC gets vaccine boost but injury list still an issue ahead of Leon rematch

Most Read