EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says it’s time to “up our game” when it comes to COVID-19 by putting a lid on super-spreader house parties.
Alberta reported a one-day record of 622 cases on Friday and hospitalizations due to the infection continue to increase.
“If the case count continues to grow that will be reflected in additional pressure on the hospital system, and that’s why Albertans should be seriously concerned,” Kenney said at a news conference Monday.
“It’s time for Albertans, for us all, to up our game.”
Kenney said his United Conservative government has taken steps to control the spread of COVID-19, including limiting to 15 the number of people allowed at most social gatherings in Edmonton and Calgary.
He said the government is adding to the 800 contract tracers already in place and working to speed up test turnaround times.
There will be more advertising and public education rollouts, he added.
Kenney acknowledged the increase in cases stemming from private house parties is hitting hard, but said closing bars and restaurants would not rectify that.
“My message is: Knock it off,” Kenney said.
“We get it. We’re all sick and tired of this. We’re impatient. I totally understand younger people especially want to get together with their friends. That’s just natural. But I would just say: please don’t be selfish.”
He said officials were able to trace a number of deaths in a nursing home to someone’s house party.
As of Friday, the province had more than 5,000 active cases with 140 people in hospital, 25 of them in intensive care. The death toll stood at 323.
The coronavirus has also hit Alberta’s economy hard. This year’s budget deficit is predicted to explode to $24 billion from about $6 billion.
Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Kenney is not doing enough to keep Albertans safe or to bail out the economy.
“This premier is essentially sleepwalking this province into an unavoidable economic lockdown, which will be bad for the economy,” she said before question period.
“This premier is abdicating his responsibility to take action simply by repeating the ‘personal responsibility’ mantra, but unfortunately failing to acknowledge what we see developing in terms of the (rising) case numbers.”
Notley wants an accelerated response, including hiring more than 1,300 contact tracers and making the COVID-19 national tracing app available in Alberta immediately.
Kenney, during question period, disputed Notley’s criticism.
“Her critique cannot be taken seriously when she says Alberta has done nothing,” he said.
“We have spent over 700-million additional dollars in the health-care system alone.
“We’ve led the country on (personal protective equipment). We’ve had a lower level of fatalities than the other large Canadian provinces (and), until the last few weeks, lower levels of infections, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions on a per-capita basis.
“(But) clearly more must be done and we will continue to make announcements in that respect.”