A month later: A look back at how Alberta managed COVID-19

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On March 5, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta announced that Albertans did not want to hear.

The province had reported its first suspected case of COVID-19.

“We take this very seriously,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw. “Public health measures are already in place to prevent the spread of the virus. “

On that day, the Alberta government asked anyone who had taken a Grand Princess cruise in the previous two weeks to isolate themselves for 14 days after returning. This marked the start of a series of increasingly stringent restrictions on the social and economic activities that changed everyday life in Alberta.

A month later, it is amazing to look back and reflect on the unprecedented speed with which these measures have been implemented.

“They really did things on the fly and did things surprisingly quickly,” said Lori Williams, professor of political science at Mount Royal University. “Anyone who knows the government, the pace and the evolution of policies, will be aware that it can take years. “

This lightning-fast decision-making, both federal and provincial, has changed the lives of Canadians in ways that were unimaginable before.

Travel restrictions. Provincial and local states of emergency. Closure of shops. Financial assistance to the unemployed. University campuses closed.

And in what Alberta’s Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange called an “unprecedented” decision, the province closed schools and daycares on March 15.

These decisions have sparked a societal change in the way people interact with each other.

The closure of schools and daycare centers has forced many parents to work from home.

Over the past month, social gathering limits have been gradually reduced from 250 people to 50 people currently 15.

On March 27, Prime Minister Jason Kenney ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.

“The measures we are taking are difficult but necessary to protect public health,” said the Prime Minister that day.

“We understand that behind every decision like this hides tens of thousands of jobs and businesses, which will plunge people into economic and financial anxiety. “

Thousands of Albertans have been laid off in the past month. And the already grim forecast for the oil industry has deteriorated, with record oil prices.

But health experts point out that social restrictions, public health prescriptions, are necessary.

Most of the first cases of COVID-19 in Alberta were related to travel. But as the virus spread, health officials sounded the alarm over community transmission, and these cases became an area of ​​interest to health officials trying to slow the spread of the virus. .

Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates the COVID-19 outbreak every day of the week. (Art Raham / CBC)

The province reported its first death from COVID-19 on March 19.

“As heartbreaking as this news was, it was expected,” Hinshaw said that day. “It is a dangerous virus.

“We are doing everything we can to fight the spread of this virus. But to do that, we will need everyone’s help. Take it seriously. Stay at home, unless it is essential for you to go out. Now is not the time for social gatherings. ”

Public health modeling predicts that the number of COVID-19 cases could peak in Alberta in early May.

This is a dangerous virus– Dr. Deena Hinshaw

At this peak, according to the model, approximately 250 people would be in Alberta intensive care beds with COVID-19.

Kenney’s phone call last week was the “toughest” to date in the fight against the virus in Alberta. “Things will get worse before they get better,” he warned.

What about the next few weeks?

Kenney said the province expects the peak of the epidemic is likely to occur in mid-April, and drastic measures to keep the spread under control may need to be in place until the end may.

What is certain, according to experts, is the need for governments to provide the public with timely and complete information.

So far, said Williams, the federal and provincial governments appear to have gained public trust, and many Albertans appear to be pleased with the work done by the province.

Lori Williams, a professor of political science at Mount Royal University, says that many Albertans seem to have confidence in the management of COVID-19 by the provincial government. (Colin Hall / CBC)

“I was struck by the fact that it seemed that people would appreciate what the federal and provincial governments were trying to do,” she said.

“And again, it was someone who watched the deployment of policies at the government level for a while really struck by what they do and how quickly. How amazing that they are able to put together the types of responses that they are.

“Now it’s the implementation that could be different. “

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