Alberta has 13,166 active COVID-19 cases, more than pandemic hotspots Ontario and Quebec—despite being home to a fraction of the population.
On Monday, the province announced 1,549 new cases of the virus—more than both Ontario and Quebec, which confirmed 1,431 and 1,164 new cases, respectively. Ontario has 13,004 active cases, and Quebec has 10,997, according to Canada Public Health data.
People-wise, Alberta is one-third the size of Ontario and half the size of Quebec.
In Alberta, “there's a deep, dark sense of foreboding," Dr. Joe Vipond, a Calgary emergency room physician, told CBC News. Vipond said he fears the worst is still to come, and expects severe illnesses and deaths to climb, given the alarming number of new cases.
COVID-19 cases are surging across Canada, with regions that were previously spared the worst consequences of the pandemic now grappling with out-of-control numbers.
"With some of the increased interactions in society and more spread in certain situations, the cases unfortunately accelerated…obviously very fast,” Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, told CBC News.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged provinces to implement stronger lockdown measures and most provinces have taken some sort of action. British Columbia and Ontario have implemented lockdowns to curb virus spread and Quebec has shuttered all nonessential businesses in Montreal, with no plans to open them anytime soon. Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador tightened their grip on travel by pulling out of the “Atlantic Bubble,” which allowed people to travel freely throughout Canada’s East Coast without isolating.
Yet Alberta doesn’t seem to be doing much about its own outbreak.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been largely absent from COVID-19 press conferences, and despite worrisome virus surges in Edmonton and Calgary, he has only ordered licensed bars and restaurants to close at 11 p.m. and stop serving alcohol an hour earlier. Group fitness classes have also been banned.
"The longer you wait to increase the measures, the longer it would take to come out of the restrictions," Tam said.
Kenney has touted personal freedoms and the need to support the economy as reasons to avoid government-enforced lockdowns. His pandemic response has earned him the lowest approval ratings in the county, with only 37 percent of Albertans supporting his handling of the public health crisis, CTV News reported.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi urged Kenney to take action.
"The language has really changed in the last two weeks from 'personal responsibility and we're going to avoid lockdowns' to 'if this doesn't work, lockdowns are needed,’" Nenshi told CTV. "My argument would be, if that is your thinking, move quickly."
Edmonton physician, Dr. Lana Myroniuk, penned a letter on behalf of nearly 350 doctors to Kenney on Sunday, imploring him to implement a new lockdown.
“The continued rise in COVID-19 infections in Alberta is alarming. We are not on the brink of a health care system disaster—we are already in it,” the letter says. “While none of us want to have a second lockdown, I do not see any alternative at present.”
New measures are expected to be announced on Tuesday, but Alberta’s chief medical officer didn’t say what those might be when she spoke with reporters on Monday.
“My role, again, is simply to provide recommendations," Dr. Deena Hinshaw said, adding that it’s ultimately up to Kenney’s government to decide what measures to implement.
Edmonton is the hardest hit city in Alberta, with nearly 6,000 active cases. Calgary, which was hit harder at the pandemic’s onset, is currently reporting just under 5,000.
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