Associate Minister returns saying Alberta is waiting for ICU capacity to reach limit

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Alberta’s associate minister of mental health and addictions said he twisted government policy in a town hall when he said the province was waiting for hospital capacity to be pushed to the limit before announcing new restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.“Our criteria are measured against our hospital capacity to manage intensive care and hospitalizations. So we’re just waiting to see where that threshold gets pushed to our limit, and then gradually cut back more activity that way, ”Jason Luan said during virtual town hall for his riding of Calgary-Foothills, in a video posted to media. social.

However, Luan said in a statement on Twitter Sunday that his comments were inaccurate.

“Yes, the capacity of the hospital is a critical consideration in any response to COVID-19… but I was wrong to suggest that anyone wait until we are pushed to the limit,” he wrote.

Luan said the government is making evidence-based decisions, based on recommendations from public health officials, to avoid getting there. He said he regretted any confusion his statement caused and that he was not involved in making decisions about the new restrictions or the hospital’s capacity.

Luan’s comments come as Alberta hits a new record for COVID-19 cases, with some of the lowest restrictions but the highest infection rates in the country.

Dr Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said on Friday that the impact of the province’s most recently introduced restrictions – put in place last Friday – would start to be felt this weekend. Instead, the cases continued to increase dramatically.

On Sunday, the province saw 1,584 more people test positive, for a total of 12,195 active cases (the two new records).

That’s more new cases than was reported Sunday in Ontario, which has more than three times the population of Alberta. The Toronto and Peel region will introduce other restrictions on Monday, including restricting retail to curbside pickup or delivery, closing indoor and outdoor dining, and the ban on indoor gatherings.

Alberta also had record hospitalizations with 319 people in hospital, 60 in intensive care (the province has 70 intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients). A total of 471 Albertans have died.

Opposition calls for emergency debate

The spike cases and lack of new restrictions prompted a trending Twitter hashtag – #WhereIsKenney – calling attention to the fact that self-isolating Prime Minister Jason Kenney has not made a public appearance by phone or video call for days.

CBC News contacted the Prime Minister’s Office and the Minister of Health’s Office for comment on Sunday, and did not receive a response. Alberta Health said Dr Hinshaw would be available shortly to answer questions from the media on Monday afternoon.

Kenney had posted to social media on Saturday asking Albertans to do their part and stay home if they were sick, wash their hands and wear a mask.

“As Dr. Hinshaw says, COVID-19 is extremely serious. Albertans, we can slow the spread and protect each other, but only if we all do the right things together, ”he writes.

The opposition said in a statement on Sunday that it would call for an emergency debate on Monday to call for action to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is the greatest public health threat we have ever faced in our lives,” Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said in the statement.

“We have seen Premiers from across the country address the public in recent days and provide models and other information that show just how threatening COVID-19 is. In Alberta we haven’t seen anything like it. ”

Opposition health spokesman David Shepherd said if Luan’s remarks on Friday were not true, Kenney needs to say what the real action thresholds are.

Shepherd also rejected Luan’s claim that he was not a spokesperson.

“This is an unforgivable attempt to sidestep the responsibility of a cabinet minister,” Shepherd said. “As Associate Minister of Health, Luan is absolutely a spokesperson and a decision maker and he has given Albertans false information about the government’s response to COVID-19. “



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