Alberta Politics
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, at yesterday’s COVID-19 briefing (Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta video).

It was good luck not good management that saved us from COVID-19 last spring; bad management is killing us now

Posted on November 17, 2020, 1:57 am
8 mins

Sunday was Alberta’s deadliest pandemic day to date.

Twenty people died from COVID-19. There were 860 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total of active cases to 10,031.

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

And one gets the feeling, given the Kenney Government’s determinedly lackadaisical response to the pandemic, that this is just getting warmed up.

Surely it was hubris to attribute the province’s relatively low COVID-19 infection rates in the weeks after last spring’s lockdown to good management and the common sense of Albertans, as Premier Jason Kenney seems to have been doing ever since.

That wasn’t good management. It was good luck.

And while good luck is nice to have, it’s not the best foundation on which to base long term plans – especially if you intend to ignore a lot of expert advice.

It should have been obvious that basing Alberta’s pandemic response plans on over-optimistic assumptions and half-hearted voluntary rules would lead us to our current straits.

Indeed, it was obvious to many experts. But this is Alberta. Who listens to experts?

We had our own contact tracing app, and we were first! Except, unlike the “Trudeau tracing app,” as the UCP called the federal government’s COVID Alert app, the Alberta version didn’t work very well.

Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu (Photo: David Climenhaga).

As we learned yesterday, thanks to Carrie Tait at the Globe and Mail, Alberta’s own ABTraceTogether app has now been used to track exposures … 19 times!

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw told yesterday’s daily COVID-19 briefing, our overworked human tracers are having trouble keeping up. “With about 1,000 new cases a day, there are about 15,000 people every day who are new close contacts,” she explained. “It is impossible to make phone calls to each one.”

So you’d think we’d be adopting the COVID Alert app then, since it can do part of the job of human tracers.

No way! We’ll be sticking with the Kenney tracing app. It’s been improved, the province’s issues managers insist — although there’s some debate about whether it actually works any better than it did when Albertans were declining in droves to sign up for it.

Dr. Hinshaw also said yesterday what’s been obvious to everyone else for days now – “I would say, yes, we are in a second wave at this time.”

It was only at the end of September, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a speech that we were entering the long-forecast second wave, that Mr. Kenney excoriated him. “Alberta is disappointed that instead of listening to Canada’s provinces, the federal government doubled down on policies that will kill jobs, make Canada poorer and weaken national unity,” the premier said.

Well, to give Mr. Kenney his due, the man obviously knows a thing or two about killing jobs and weakening national unity.

The promotion for Mr. Kenney’s car dealership fund-raiser (Photo: Facebook screenshot).

On Friday, in an update on contact tracing sent to Alberta Health Services staff, physicians and volunteers, AHS CEO Verna Yiu and Senior Medical Officer of Health Laura McDougall warned that, “currently, capacity at Edmonton and Calgary Zone hospitals is frequently exceeding 100 per cent. Some units are seeing occupancy as high as 125 per cent.

“Much of this is being driven by the need to isolate COVID-positive or likely COVID-positive patients or close contacts,” their memo continued. “Between Calgary and Edmonton, we have about 800 isolation beds, however we are currently using about 1,200 isolation beds, meaning some beds in multi-bed rooms cannot be used.

“In addition to this, more than 500 continuing care beds across all five AHS zones are currently closed due to site outbreaks. Patients who would normally be transferred from hospital to a continuing centre are having to wait longer in hospital. This also limits the number of available hospital beds.

Premier Kenney seems not to have fully grasped the limits a highly communicable disease like COVID-19 can put on hospital space, judging from his cheerful recent commentaries on the number of beds in Alberta’s health care system.

Iconic American folk singer and anti-war activist Pete Seeger in 1955 (Photo: Fred Palumbo, Public Domain).

Indeed, Mr. Kenney, tweeting yesterday from isolation, offered no commentary on Dr. Hinshaw’s disheartening report, little about COVID-19 beyond vaccine news from the United States, but had lots to say about his government’s efforts to cut “red tape,” as the UCP calls health and safety and other necessary regulations.

For the families of the dead. Not a word from the premier.

Meanwhile, sharp-eyed observers of social media spotted a promotion for “an exclusive evening with Premier Jason Kenney and top politicians” at an Edmonton luxury car dealership.

For $1,000, the promotion said, 15 lucky participants can partake of wine and scotch with the premier, who then will be freshly sprung his second stretch of COVID19 isolation.

Participants needn’t worry about the 15-person limit on such affairs, the promoters must have assumed. It’s strictly voluntary. (And never mind the optics of mixing booze and fast cars.)

Well, perhaps the premier will cancel that date when he’s reminded of how he advised us a couple of weeks ago that “the single biggest thing people could do is just stop with the private parties and the social gatherings.” Or maybe he’ll only make a disembodied virtual appearance, as he’s been doing lately.

The promotional post, at least, seems to have disappeared but for the inevitable screenshots.

Still, reading all this in one day, one can’t help but be reminded of Pete Seeger’s anti-Vietnam-War anthem, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.

“We were knee deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on.”

33 Comments to: It was good luck not good management that saved us from COVID-19 last spring; bad management is killing us now

  1. Dave

    November 17th, 2020

    I don’t think Premier Kenney is stupid. He actually seems to be a fairly clever politician, with a long career of experience, but he sure does have his blind spots. I think in general health care is one of those areas.

    He also has very fixed views of the world, which probably is not a strength in these unprecedented times, when more adaptability or flexibility would be an asset.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Kenney released from self imposed isolation again, could wax eloquently and passionately about free enterprise inqenuity and hard work to the 15 or so people at car dealership function. I expect he might also have a few unkind words for Ottawa, the Federal Liberals or Trudeau. However, I doubt that passion will come through on what he says about COVID or health care. He is unfortunately the wrong leader for this crisis and time, as the stats are now showing so clearly.

    Leadership is about making many choices well. So we were first with the contact tracing app, but instead of quickly fixing the bugs, Kemney just rested on his laurels and boasted we were first. I suppose improving it was just not his focus. Then, after things started to fall apart more, we were offered a chance to save things, by integrating and transitioning to the Federal app. A wise person would have taken that option, but Kenney seems blinded by the Federal app being that of his nemissis Trudeau.

    It is the bad choices our provincial leaders are making, one by one, that are leading us further to this terrible place we are getting to. Yes the complacency of early good luck is part of the problem, but disinterest in the crisis and antagonism about working with the Feds is also part of the Alberta COVID leadership problems.

    Reply
    • ema

      November 17th, 2020

      In my opinion, the best descriptor of Kenney is cunning, as I don’t think he is clever at all. His dogmatic actions belie someone who might be called clever.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    November 17th, 2020

    I just can’t fathom things improving under the failed leadership of the UCP. It is far from over yet with the problems from Covid-19 and the economic disaster the UCP is putting on Alberta.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      November 17th, 2020

      I agree. We just have 3 more years to wait, and thousands of needless deaths, before we can vote him out. Gotta love “democracy.” Can’t believe stupid Albertans gave this crook a majority. Now, he is our king.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        November 18th, 2020

        ATHABASCAN: Sorry, but the UCP attained power by deceptive means. There are so many things that point to that. It is less than 3 years before the next provincial election in Alberta, and don’t be surprised if the UCP pulls more stunts and tricks to get re-elected. There are Albertans, such as myself who could see that the UCP weren’t good from the very start, and didn’t want them in power.

        Reply
      • Bob Raynard

        November 19th, 2020

        I really don’t like general comments like ‘stupid Albertans’, but it does appear you are not the only one with those views. After 8 months of hearing what we need to do to control Covid, the authorities still believe ‘education’ is a better approach than enforcement. Those authorities must also believe Albertans have a serious learning problem.

        Reply
  3. jerrymacgp

    November 17th, 2020

    There are now two declared outbreaks in hospitals in North Zone: one unit at Grande Prairie’s QE II Hospital, and one at a rural hospital, Fairview Health Complex about an hour & a bit north of Grande Prairie: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page17232.aspx.

    I have been hearing numerous anecdotal reports of people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 failing to disclose them at screening opportunities prior to engaging with the health care system. This is extremely disturbing and threatens the stability of the system.

    Reply
  4. Bob Raynard

    November 17th, 2020

    There is a prevailing attitude among Covid deniers that the only issue with regards to Covid is the number of deaths, and they are a very small percentage of the actual number of cases. Unfortunately, deaths are not the only issue. The CBC article linked below tells the story of a 29 year old woman who contracted Covid at the hospital she works at. Two months later she still has not recovered, and has possibly suffered permanent lung damage. This gives me even more respect and appreciation for hospital workers who continue to go to work, especially considering the abuse they are getting from the government. I don’t think I would; especially if I were a lower paid worker who could probably earn the same amount of pay in a less dangerous environment.

    For me the most important part of the story is when it reports that this prolonged suffering happens in about 5% of all Covid cases. That means that when the government announced 1000 new cases on Sunday, 50 Albertans are in for a prolonged, or even permanent, difficult time.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/covid-nurse-1.5803188

    Reply
  5. Abs

    November 17th, 2020

    Well, at least we know why the premier has paused sporting activities like kids’ hockey.

    https://ca.news.yahoo.com/manitoba-may-ice-rinks-covid-031341448.html

    Extra hospital capacity! Temporary morgues aplenty! And don’t forget the reefer units, which can be repurposed for food distribution after pandemic use in Alberta, unlike in other jurisdictions where they must be destroyed after use for contagion.

    I said this a few days ago. Alberta’s emergency response plan spells it out. Now we know that it’s full steam ahead for the Covid iceberg, because your heart will go on.

    Reply
    • Abs

      November 17th, 2020

      Yes, you read that correctly: temporary morgue one day, food delivery vehicle the next. This is perfectly legal in Alberta. Other jurisdictions require the government purchase of refrigerator units for this purpose, with their destruction after body storage. That’s just red tape here in Alberta.

      Reply
  6. Athabascan

    November 17th, 2020

    If Hinshaw had any integrity, she would resign in protest. How badly does she need a job?

    Is kenny paying her that much? Couldn’t she earn just a much being a real health advocate by being a doctor?

    Personally, I would not feel safe having her as my family doctor. She either doesn’t keep up with recent developments in COVID research, or she doesn’t care about the health of Albertans.

    Either way, she is a disgrace to the medical community.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      November 18th, 2020

      ATHABASCAN: It is due to the UCP having absolute control over Hinshaw. She used to be independent in her thinking, but the UCP changed all that. We see the results are different in Alberta, as compared to the first wave of Covid-19 in Alberta. It isn’t going to get better.

      Reply
  7. Political Ranger

    November 17th, 2020

    There’s lots of talk about leadership and choices and either bold or failed action.
    But let’s be real clear here; this man and his ideology and incompetence is killing people!

    Why is he still walking around?

    Reply
  8. Bret Larson

    November 17th, 2020

    “That wasn’t good management. It was good luck.”

    Actually, it was both. And originally we had a fairly strong lock down to decide how dangerous the virus was and prepare as best we could. Which was warranted. Maybe we should look at the original maths and see how many people we have saved by our interventions?

    Given that one of the reasons for less adherence to Covid protocols currently is lockdown fatigue we are perhaps having more cases now as a consequence.

    We are all in this together, however, some of us are in the bad end of the stick than others. I think there would be less call for lockdowns by certain sectors of the population if government wages were linked government incomes.

    Just seems like a fair thing to enact, maybe Notley can suggest as a way to bring everyone together to fight the pandemic and share the pain.

    Reply
    • Tom Fuller

      November 17th, 2020

      Bret Larson’s comments are puzzling. After some bland comments about the blog post, he suggests that calls for a lockdown are somehow associated with being employed in the public sector. I know of no evidence at all for this. As far as I know, concern about the Government’s pathetically inadequate response is pretty common among all Albertans.

      Perhaps he’s not saying what I suggested above, in which case he’s just attaching an attack on public sector workers to an otherwise tepid commentary on public response to the pandemic. If that’s the case, he’s simply ignoring the facts (while taking a cheap shot). 20,000 layoffs in the Education? 11,000 Health Care jobs to be lost to contracting out? Hiring freezes and layoffs in the public service? 0% pay increases for all but two years of the last half decade (which means a real wage loss of close to 10%)? Which part of this is not sharing “the pain”? Please clarify (or not).

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        November 18th, 2020

        Thanks for the third person opportunity to make this more clear.

        If you are running a business and you have to drop 50% of your capacity to meet Covid requirements this means you have to drop 50% of your income. With over head this likely means you can pay yourself zero, does that sound like a layoff?
        However, if you are employed by the government and you have to lock down alot more still receive their standard pay cheque. So the covid burden is being mostly felt on one side of the employment landscape.

        Because Covid affects us all, its important to share the burden so we can address covid as a population instead of divided into subsets. Which is why social justice demands a like drop in pay for bureaucrats and the like, who were not laid off.

        As to government union monopoly jobs being shifted to competitive marketplace jobs. This has nothing to do with Covid. Its merely good management and what the UCP were elected to do.

        Reply
  9. Bruce Turton

    November 17th, 2020

    Having done a very amateur search for the information, I have found nothing about the tests used at the southern border, nor, I assume, at the Calgary airport, to assess those who arrive in Alberta as to their Covid-19 status. If, as I suspect, the rapid tests being used are the Abbot Labs test that is used a lot across the Excited States and here, we can not be assured that those who test negative can be let go rather than quarantine for a fortnight. Those tests are known to be 30-50% inaccurate!!! I do hope this is not the test being used. But this is the UCP territory now, so g*d knows!!!

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      November 21st, 2020

      Mr Turton: “Those tests are known to be 30-50% inaccurate”. Citation, please. This is an assertion made without evidence to support it.

      When assessing the accuracy of a diagnostic test, there are two measures of accuracy: sensitivity — the probability that positive cases will not be missed, or rate of “false negatives” — and specificity — the probability that positive tests truly mean the individual tested really has the disease, not a “false positive”. These are often opposing concepts, since a highly sensitive test is more likely to set off false positives, while a highly specific test is more likely to miss cases on the margins. So, there is no valid rating of how “accurate” a test is, as one single number.

      When assessing rapid screening tests for a disease like COVID-19, we would probably be better off if the sensitivity were as high as possible, and be willing to accept somewhat lower specificity — since positives can be swabbed for the more definitive lab test & go into isolation while waiting for results — while we would have a very low tolerance for missing positives in a screening environment. But I have to confess that I have not looked into the sensitivity or specificity data for the currently available rapid screening tests; presumably Health Canada has, which is a factor in whether or not a test product is approved for use in Canada. In fact, that information may even be proprietary & disclosed only to Health Canada assessors.

      Reply
  10. pogo

    November 17th, 2020

    I have something to ask. Does the magnificent sword bearer of modern democracy and freedom, one Jason Kenney, only appear if we call his name three times? Will he appear? Not for free and that’s for sure! But might there exist a conjure beyond dollar bills stuffed into his tightly girded loin cloth that would command his presence? My bet is on looming failure at the polls. A potential dying of his power battery. Why he just might blink out like the twinkle in the eye of a senior citizen in a private care home that he’s intentional fed into the covid furnace. What a poor excuse for a human! And some begin to stir and wonder why it had to be like this.

    Reply
  11. Carlos

    November 17th, 2020

    Our premier is an IDIOT and there is no possible cure other than get rid of him.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      November 18th, 2020

      CARLOS: I am wondering about the recall legislation the UCP was so passionate about, while they were in the Opposition. They don’t seem to be clamouring for it now.

      Reply
      • Carlos

        November 18th, 2020

        Yes you are right. Well it is not convenient anymore so forget about it – that is always the case with these so called populists. Once in power minds change. unfortunately most politicians do that and that has caused the political crisis we have had for decades now

        Reply
  12. Kingsley

    November 17th, 2020

    It’s winter in Alberta so no need for refrigerated morgues. Just stack the dead outside like cordwood and deal with them in the spring. This cost saving measure will help balance the budget.

    Reply
    • Abs

      November 18th, 2020

      It’s the darn Chinooks that make this common sense, low-cost option impossible. Freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, all winter long. Gets a little embarrassing after a while. And smelly. And the urban coyotes and magpies draw too much attention. I think we learned from our reefer experience outside the Medical Examiner’s office in Edmonton: no stacking of corpses, and no dragging of body bags. Maybe we should follow the NYC Covid example, and limit reefer capacity to non-stacking and forklifts, with screens in place to restrict viewing. That should do it.

      Reply
  13. theo

    November 17th, 2020

    Waiting for Tech Support occasionally gives time to reflect. Brett Larson is one such reflection point. A tip of the hat to David for allowing this gentleman (I use the term with question) to appear on his site.

    “We are all in this together, however, some of us are in the bad end of the stick than others. I think there would be less call for lockdowns by certain sectors of the population if government wages were linked government incomes.”

    This is is an intriguing statement. I take that to mean that government wages should have been sky high during the times we were in boom periods. I looked. They weren’t. They were just reasonable. Now, following good accounting and fiscal practices, the government should have calculated all of these expenses regarding wages page paid to our hard working civil employees and taken those expenses into account when granting 4.7 BILLION dollars in tax relief to profitable companies. Yet, the government is basically saying it didn’t do that.

    It said billions of tax relief means “jobs, jobs, jobs”. Even though, all the statistical evidence of 40 years of trickle down economics says it was all a ponzi scheme. You don’t appear to be incredibly gullible, Brett. Yet, your support of ponzi schemes clothed in patently obvious economic bullshit gives me concern.

    If that is not the case then I can only conclude you are a paid troll. If you are not, then see assessment above.
    Thanks awfully.

    Reply
  14. Lars

    November 17th, 2020

    “…his tightly girded loin cloth…”

    Thank you for that most unappetizing mental image.

    Reply
    • pogo

      November 19th, 2020

      Thanks to you kind wanderer! The loin cloth is the key. To what has brought this sickness…. to us all.. in all varieties! Is not our lot to toil?.. In shadows cast by them__? ’til morning comes, we’ll see the light and cast away their gloom? Our choice is. to accept their song, and so, welcome our sure doom! But my content, (I pay no rent) is fuck them, it’s my room! https://youtu.be/fJJTFuFlUtE

      Reply
  15. Just Me

    November 17th, 2020

    I was expecting the Angry Midget to come out of his lair (or closet…depending on…) and make another metaphorical statement about hardy Albertans being like the mighty buffalo, as they charge headlong into the great storm of COVID 19 areosal particles.

    But…no.

    Ken-DOH! spends his days contemplating the next hyper-right-wing initiative that will advance Alberta that much closer to Kenney’s dream of whatever goes on inside his brain made real. If only deeper tax cuts could cure everyone ills, he’d go nuts with that one.

    Reply
  16. Liam

    November 17th, 2020

    Make sure you download the ABTraceTogether app on every Apple and Android device you own, so you can give it multiple 1-star reviews on the appropriate app store! I did 5 reviews from my household!

    Reply
  17. Keith McClary

    November 18th, 2020

    “Kenney, Alberta Party acting leader Jacquie Fenske and Edmonton-Riverbend MP Matt Jeneroux had promised to appear, she said. Martin is still waiting to hear back from the provincial NDP and Liberal parties and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson.

    Junior Achievement billed the event as a VIP evening with Kenney and others.”

    https://globalnews.ca/news/7468308/junior-achievement-kenney-fundraiser-covid-19/

    Reply
  18. lungta

    November 18th, 2020

    It wasn’t good luck or good management that saved us from COVID-19 last spring.
    Calling the game after the top half of the first inning has been shown to be a tad premature.
    That said,
    Creepy conniving kenny is about the worst possible choice for wisdom or leadership on this or any other issue, if in fact you value people or the Province. I am continually astounded by his primitive knuckle dragging assessments and the cheers of his knuckle dragging followers (shandro immediately comes to mind )

    Reply
  19. Scotty on Denman

    November 19th, 2020

    It never ceases to amaze me how channeled to The Orang-Spray-Goo-Tan the UCP government is. Today it occurs that, as these hits just keep on a-coming, almost non-stop, that the survival attitude (never mind Covid for a moment) for Albertans has to be just like it is in the USA: simply hang on until this government is over.

    It’s tough and I really feel for y’all living there in one of my favourite planets in the Canadian solar system: you have so many big-ticket problems right now, and then this K-Boyishness on top of it all—I can hardly imagine how hard it must

    How long until the next Alberta election? Two years and change? Hang in there, my Alberta friends! We’re rooting for you!

    Reply

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