Alberta Premier Jason Kenney will make a live speech Tuesday at 6 p.m. to announce new public health measures to limit the spread the COVID-19.
A press conference won’t be held until Wednesday at 10 a.m. when Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu will answer questions, the premier’s executive director of communications Brock Harrison confirmed on Twitter Tuesday.
The new restrictions come as Alberta has the highest number of new COVID-19 cases per week of any province or state in North America and the highest number of active cases by population of any province in Canada.
At a press conference Monday, Kenney promised new measures would be announced on Tuesday but offered no details. At the time he said Alberta has similar restrictions as British Columbia and Saskatchewan but the difference between the provinces appears to be “behavioural.”
“At the end of the day, what’s required is a broad public buy-in to the restrictions that are in place,” he said. “We all have to be a part of the solution.”
The news comes as more than 50 Alberta doctors and nurses signed an open letter to Kenney released Tuesday, calling for stricter restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
The group warns that if the province doesn’t institute strict public health measures similar to those implemented in the first wave, thousands of Albertans of all ages will become seriously ill, maximizing the numbers of those with long-term disabilities due to COVID-19, crashing the hospital system.
“It is the constitutional responsibility and moral duty of the Government of Alberta to protect the health and lives of Albertans as a priority,” the letter says.
“The numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are rapidly increasing and have now exceeded the previous peak numbers seen last December,” it says.
The letter from doctors warns that major surgical procedures are being postponed by Alberta Health Services to reduce the need for ICUs.
“Modelling projections, that have been extremely accurate to date, indicate that if the rate of spread is not adequately controlled soon there will be between 300 and 320 COVID patients in addition to the usual 150-174 non-COVID critically ill patients admitted to the ICUs in Alberta by the end of May, 2021,” it says.
“Although additional beds and equipment can likely be provided, it is highly doubtful that healthcare workers with the necessary expertise can be made available to staff the extra ICU surge beds and provide the level of care required by critically ill patients.”
This is not the first time doctors have raised the alarm about Alberta’s COVID-19 restrictions during the third wave of the pandemic. In April doctors with the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMSA) and the Calgary and Area Medical Staff Society (CAMSS) called for a lockdown or circuit breaker.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government reached out to the Alberta government over the weekend to offer help.
“For Alberta, we continued reaching out to the province through the weekend. We’re offering whatever help they need to get the situation under control and keep Albertans safe,” he said at a press conference Tuesday.
Shandro’s press secretary Steve Buick said in an email that the Alberta government has not asked Ottawa for help.
“We are concerned about the rise in cases and hospitalizations, but at present the number of COVID patients in hospital remains well below the peak level we experienced in December,” he said.
“AHS has plans in place to accommodate higher numbers of hospital patients than the December peak level, as well as contingency planning for extreme scenarios beyond any current estimate of the likely demands on hospital capacity.”
– With files from Jeff Labine