Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta has now passed a significant milestone — more COVID-19 cases than at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, 3,138 compared to 3,022 on April 30.

There were 898 new cases over the weekend if you count Friday, as Alberta Health Services does, and four more people have died, including one who was only 20.

Right-wing broadcaster Danielle Smith toward the end of her political career (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

There are outbreaks at 97 schools, including 26 with five or more cases, and it’s pretty hard to believe that the Alberta government’s determination to have a “near-normal” school reopening last month despite forecasts a second pandemic wave was on its way isn’t having an impact on these troubling numbers now.

AHS’s Edmonton Zone — presumably the equivalent to a Blue State from the UCP’s Republicanized perspective — is hardest hit.

In other words, the second wave is clearly with us now, but don’t look for a vigorously mandated or enforced response from Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government.

Indeed, it’s very hard to believe the UCP will do much about this no matter how bad things get. The premier appears to be as determined as any Republican state governor south of the Medicine Line to keep all businesses running regardless of how many Albertans get sick.

Appearing on right-wing broadcaster Danielle Smith’s radio program yesterday morning, Mr. Kenney repeated his mantra about how it’s all up to us Albertans to exercise “personal responsibility.”

That’s a heavy responsibility for a population to which anti-mask and anti-vaxx sentiment, not to mention COVID-19 quackery, is disseminated widely and effectively, even by some mainstream media.

Ms. Smith, a former leader of the Wildrose Party, has happily peddled the Trumpian claim that hydroxychloroquine was a sure-fire cure for COVID-19 on her Corus Radio show, although in fairness she normally sticks to market fundamentalist economic quackery while on the air. Either way, though, she offered a congenial platform for a premier who avoids interviewers who might ask tough questions.

“We have to learn to live with COVID-19, it is going to continue to spread through our population, unless and until there’s a widespread use of an effective and safe vaccine,” Mr. Kenney told a sympathetic Ms. Smith during yesterday’s broadcast.

Spread of COVID-19 could doubtless be reduced by taking measures to require mask use in public spaces and businesses, which the UCP is only willing to let Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw recommend.

However, Mr. Kenney told Ms. Smith, “our strong preference is to trust people to exercise personal responsibility.”

The premier also said that “Alberta’s belief is we’re not going to micromanage our way out of this” — by which he presumably meant the UCP isn’t going to try to manage the problem at all. “We’re only going to get through this if people exercise personal responsibility, and that’s what we call on Albertans to do,” Mr. Kenney added.

The government will, by the sound of it however, be continuing to micromanage Alberta Health Services’ collective agreement negotiations with its health care unions as it has the fraught contractual relationship with the province’s physicians. This does say something about the UCP’s practical and policy priorities.

There have been 22,673 COVID-19 cases in Alberta, population 4.4 million, since the start of the pandemic. By contrast, there have been 11,840 in British Columbia, population 5.1 million, next door. Such data, naturally, are subject to rapid change.

British Columbians go to the polls Saturday in an election in which NDP Premier John Horgan’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis is widely seen as a pivotal issue.

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  1. Yes, personal responsibility is important now as always, but what make this a meaningless platitude of the type our current Premier is fond of, is there is much more to it than that.

    I was wearing my mask in a retail outlet the other day, but some others for whatever reason were not. How do you enforce “personal responsibility”? Occasional hectoring by Premier Kenney and leaving mask bylaws to municipalities, which have the least power of any level of government to monitor and enforce them, is not sufficient.

    It is not surprising that the Alberta government’s lacsidasical approach has already resulted in more COVID cases than larger BC. I realize Kenney sees COVID as a temporary inconvenience and eagerly wants to get back to his agenda of the war on doctors, nurses and all that. However, his approach is coming back to bite him. Yes, the numbers are worst now in Edmonton, which the UCP doesn’t care about anyways. However, they have increased quite alarmingly in Calgary this week too. Also, many rural Albertans depend on health care facilities in the two largest centres for many special or complicated procedures not available locally. If hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary start to get backed up because of COVID, this hurts rural Albertans too.

    I fear that by not acting more strongly now, the Alberta government is increasing the risk things will just keep getting worse. The short term political expediency of doing as little as possible now will come back to bite Premier Kenney soon and unfortunately probably the rest of Alberta too.

  2. Kenney’s aversion to micromanaging the pandemic is ironic given his inability to keep his hands off everything else, including the CPP, policing, and even education curricula at every level.

  3. Fill up that parking lot field hospital at the Peter Lougheed. Kenney has found the perfect solution to that embarrassing unemployment problem in Alberta. People won’t be unemployed after the virus takes care of them. And it’s all their own fault, all of it. Those who fall ill and survive can look forward to being uninsurable, or insurable at a high premium in Kenney’s privatized, American-style health system in the future, due to Covid-caused pre-existing conditions. Telus Health already runs the medical record system that doctors and pharmacists use, so there’s no way to hide from Babylon.

    Expecting Kenney to care about the people of this province is like believing in unicorns. It is never going to happen. Citizens are just ATMs for oil companies. Compassion and concern are for true leaders, but the people of Alberta voted in Coroplast Man, a 21st century, petroleum-based Pinocchio.

  4. I rarely agree with Kenney, and then it is usually an incomplete agreement, but he is right we are going to have to live with covid until herd immunity is reached either naturally or unnaturally. It would be nice to have more background on the numbers, we have been sitting at 8 deaths in Alberta for a long time as cases go up and down. Now these are deaths where there is no known underlying health issue. Of the deaths where there are one or more underlying health issue what are these issues? It is very hard to assess risk when incomplete facts are presented, not to mention the switch from severe outcomes to strictly case numbers.
    Dave you fall into the trap that many seem to and end up indirectly supporting some very bad ideas by automatically disagreeing with anything out of Trump’s or Kenney’s mouth. The zinc and hydroxychloroquine statement clearly illustrates this, both cheap and easily attainable remedies. Unfortunately because Trump said it has to be bad and therefore we need to wait for big pharma to come up with something much more expensive and not as safe. Supplementing with zinc is not bad it wasn’t that long ago that speaking about the nutritional deficiency of our food was something we could discuss.

    1. Only eight (8) deaths? Eight? Holy [email protected] on a cracker, Sir, check the Alberta Health website again, will you? To date there have been 296 deaths in Alberta attributed to COVID-19. In comparison, lab-confirmed influenza killed 39 last flu season (August 2019 to May 2020). So, in rough figures, for every death from flu, you can expect 10 from COVID-19.

  5. Just wondering: Would the Used Car Party faithful, dwindling as they are in popular support, ever let us plebes exercise some voice by offering a referendum on such things as universal health care!! I, for one, doubt it, but then I am a democratic socialist with little in the way of authoritarian ambitions.
    But the exercise would probably give a telling smack up the side of their collective heads, especially the 53% of UCP delegates who bothered to vote for more privatization. Making J.K. more of a liar about this issue after his declaration of not tinkering with Alberta health care might not be too popular, especially, but not only, among those whose health care is many miles and hours away from where they live.
    Has anyone in that group thought about how austerity for the masses makes private, out of pocket, for profit health care all that more difficult to access for us plebes? Is the long term prospectus just like the shorter term one that comes with the Covid-19 response; i.e., culling the weak? Extreme neoliberalism + Social Darwinism (apologies to Darwin who had nothing to do with this ideology!) – such an exciting experiment!!!

  6. I know youre not comparing them but writers of lesser scruple might leave it open for interpretation, these stats, “Alberta has now passed a significant milestone — more COVID-19 cases than at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, 3,138 compared to 3,022 on April 30” are not directly comparable.

    Confirmed cases need to be compared, for effect on the health of the overall population, based on the quantity of testing being done and the populations being infected.

    However, while the consequences of the expansion of the virus shouldnt be minimized the drawbacks of curtailing essential work and study need considered in the calculus.

    You reference virus numbers in BC for some reason. Perhaps it would be reasonable to reference how many people have succumbed to overdoses in the same time frame in BC for comparison?

    Ill help you out:

    1. Let’s compare Covid to drug overdoses, because overdoses are contagious via aerosolized particles? And in other news, the unicorns have escaped from the paddock again today.

      1. Human behaviour is complex and addition perhaps one of the most intractable.

        However, its clear that interventions can help, much like the interventions to minimize Covid-19.

        So if you evaluate problems based on deaths then perhaps BC should reallocate resources or change their strategy.

        What would be the argument against such a change?

  7. I’m guess this is the part where the prevailing edit from the UCP is …

    If you get sick, it’s your fault.

    Kenney better hope that body count doesn’t get too high.

  8. We who use common sense as our guide, know that this won’t have a good outcome. Just wait and see. The UCP will have a pretty tough time explaining their way out of this.

  9. This whole scenario reminds me of the captain of a ship. He signed on to drive a boat but, as a result of some unseen event the ship has sunk and he now finds himself in charge of a life boat. (Yes, captains are supposed to go down with the ship, but somehow his failure to do so seems appropriate in this scenario.) The boat has already reached its capacity of 50 people, but more people are clambering to get on. The captain needs to make agonizingly difficult choices that none of us would want to make, but if people are not excluded from the life boat all will die.

    I can understand why Jason Kenney does not want to pick winners and losers, but his failure to take even small steps will make losers out of all of us. Steps like banning large gatherings (and fining violators) will have minimal effect on the economy, but will make a difference. A recent wedding in Calgary has resulted in 49 cases (so far). Yes, banning such events will hurt the hospitality industry, but if any of those 49 cases were workers at the wedding, they probably would have been willing to forego the work to retain their health. Unfortunately the representatives of the hospitality industry that Jason Kenney listens to (ie management) probably do not need to put themselves at risk by actually being at the event.

  10. The population of Alberta is almost exactly 4.7 times as high as Nova Scotia.

    From the start of the pandemic:

    Covid-19 confirmed cases: Alberta 23402, NS 1097 (many from returning AB oil-field workers). 21 times as many, or 4.5 times as many per capita. Hey, you win! And you’re running away with the ball! Thanks, Jay!

    Covid-19 deaths: Alberta 296, NS 65. A tie per capita, but NS knocked off almost 60 in just one LTC facility back in April/May.

    Moving to the present day rate of infections, Oct 21. Alberta 406, NS zero. Zero total cases in schools, ever.

    Of course, we Bluenosers wear masks and hand out fines to the terminally stupid and antisocial who blather on about their anti-masking rights and have parties anyway. The rest of us just get on with life and enjoy the freedom of having a ten person social bubble allowing no mask use in each others’ homes. I wonder why Ontarians are buying up all our housing and moving here? Of course, they get a bit annoyed when they find out thy have to quarantine for two weeks when they arrive here, and have to provide a plan including where our Stasi can find them at any time of the day or night after they arrive.

    Apparently few locals here regard the use of masks as a sign their innate personalities have been subsumed by a communist bureaucracy or some other abject Albertan/American belief in utter nonsense. Our chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr Strang, is from BC and so far has handily outperformed Dr Henry there, but isn’t half as handsome. But is down-to-earth and doesn’t sugar coat what he says, especially with regard to future vaccine availability and its likely effectiveness.

    Why anyone would believe in herd immunity from Covid-19 is beyond me. It’s a virus not totally dissimilar from flu, and flu herd immunity has never happened despite vaccines. It’s why there is an annual flu shot, including for H1N1, a mutation of the original 1918 Spanish flu. Yes, it’s in the shot this year too. Heigh ho, is there anyone out there with much of a clue? A few, not many. So you had one form of Covid-19 and think you’re an immune superman like Trumplestiltskin? Hey, get in line for the mutated version! There were at least two types recognized back in May.

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