Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw at yesterday’s daily COVID-19 briefing (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta government video).

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw admitted yesterday that Alberta’s current response to soaring COVID-19 infection rates is “not likely to be sufficient to bring down our numbers.”

Fielding uncharacteristically tough and focused questioning by reporters taking part in her afternoon COVID-19 briefing and news conference, Dr. Hinshaw wouldn’t quite let herself be goaded into admitting the pandemic strategy adopted by the Kenney Government is flat-out not working. 

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

“I believe that if we had not put those restrictions in place, we would be in a worse place now than we are,” she insisted a couple of times. 

But she came pretty close, conceding that “it’s currently looking like the measures that were put in place two weeks ago are unlikely to be sufficient to bend the curve downwards, which is of course what we have to do it we’re going to protect our acute care system.”

“So we will need, if the goal is to bring our numbers down, we will need additional measures to be able to do that,” she said in response to a reporter’s question. 

That’s an interesting turn of phrase. What was she suggesting, one wonders, when she said “if the goal is to bring our numbers down” – emphasis added, of course? That bringing the numbers down is not the government’s goal? Or was she saying it had better be? 

I guess we’ll find out – or at least get a sense – when she brings her recommendations to cabinet, possibly as soon as today. 

“As you know,” Dr. Hinshaw said, “cabinet makes the ultimate decision about what restrictions will be put in place, and on what timing those are introduced.

“My team has been working hard. We are concerned by these numbers and will be bringing those recommendations forward.”

Australian health economist Stephen Duckett (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Well, good luck to ’em. It can’t be easy bringing sound public health recommendations to a cabinet for which the ineffective “mockdown” two weeks ago was too much. With situation growing much worse in spite of the half-measures cabinet reluctantly accepted two weeks ago – “putting enormous pressure on our hospitals, intensive care units, and health care workers,” Dr. Hinshaw said – the harsher measures necessary now will be twice as hard for them to swallow. 

Asked to defend the decision not to aim for crushing the virus to zero new cases, the approach successfully championed in Australia by former Alberta Heath Services CEO Stephen Duckett, Dr. Hinshaw sounded as if she were reading from Premier Kenney’s speaking notes. 

“We have not been driving to zero cases, as again we need to make sure that the restrictions that are put in place are going to be enough to bend the curve, but we also don’t want to inflict any unnecessary problems with those restrictions,” she said. (Emphasis added.) “And that’s that balance that we’ve been striving to achieve for many months now. And there are pros and cons of different approaches. I’ve often said that there’s no one single right way to move through this pandemic.”

The evidence strongly suggests, however, there is only one effective way to deal with it – the strategy proven in Australia that, unfortunately, is bound to be unpopular with Restaurants Canada, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the United Conservative Party’s Wexity fringe. 

If you want to know what the UCP brain trust thinks about the dilemma, here’s what the Premier Kenney’s “issues manager” has to say: “Those … promoting Australian-style lockdowns should at least be honest about some of the extreme, illiberal measures employed. ‘Just a few weeks’ turned to 4 months. And enforcement in practice wasn’t pretty.”

Arguably, 16 deaths, 108 people in intensive care, and 1,736 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, plus more than 20,000 active cases over all, isn’t all that pretty either, no matter how many times the government mumbles “comorbidities.” 

Perhaps this explains why, according to EKOS Research Associates President Frank Graves’ tweets last night, 70 per cent of the Albertans consulted in a recent survey disapproved of how the Kenney Government is handling the pandemic. 

Even with only three weeks of shopping left till Christmas, it’s odd it hasn’t occurred to Premier Kenney that’s a statistic worthy of attention.

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  1. Let’s just say for a moment that there is more than one way to deal with COVID, for arguments sake. Japan, Taiwan, China and Australia have had some degrees of success with somewhat different approaches. So I can go along with that in principle. However, it is also clear that Alberta’s approach has not been one of those that has been succesful at all, as the numbers so clearly indicate.

    The equivocation makes me wonder if Dr. Hinshaw is contemplating moving on from being an apologist for the Alberta government and using her public voice to try shift things. Alternatively, it could be that Kenney has finally realized his half measures are not working and Dr. Hinshaw is just a messenger of anticipated changes. In any event, it is looking to be a bleak Christmas. It need not have been if we acted sooner and with more resolve. In the UK their lock down is now being lifted. Our looks like it may just be starting.

    I think Kenney is impervious to criticism at this point, convinced of his own righteousness and assured in his own positions. This type of Conservative may seem invincible, but they are not. Like Thatcher in the UK and her poll tax, the rigid refusal to bend can be a great weakness. Unfortunately in this case, a lot of Albertans will probably needlessly suffer and die in the meantime due to his hubris.

  2. It is so blatantly clear that the UCP’s half baked measures on dealing with Covid-19 in Alberta are failing. One of the other big mistakes that the UCP did was reject a motion by an NDP MLA that Dr. Deena Hinshaw be independent. That is part of the problem. I don’t know what else the UCP will do, when cases of Covid-19 in Alberta continue to skyrocket. By the end of this month, or sooner, the UCP will babble platitudes, make excuses, blame others, and try something else that doesn’t work. It’s all they are capable of.

  3. Useless, useless, useless!
    This horrible, repugnant little troll and his mob of slobbering idiots are directly responsible for killing multiple dozens of people.
    What the hell is wrong with people in this province that there isn’t any outrage. These disgusting excuses should be dragged out into the street.
    Even the military is getting nervous about these sad sack clowns and are preparing to step in to provide basic services.

    1. The people of Twitter have announced that they will be tracking the movement of reefer trucks in and out of hospitals, even through the night, which is when these units will be on the move. They promise to photograph these units, and to post the images for all to see.

      Regardless of whatever announcement comes today, I hope the people of Twitter follow through. We need to document this moment in time for the history books, the time when thousands of useless eaters were exterminated by a virus, and their own government’s wilful refusal to do anything to stop its spread. This is the time when humans were sacrficed at the Temple of the Economy, and ego and ideology, the era of “Shop til you Drop”, literally, of course.

      We shouldn’t forget crimes against humanity, even if it upsets school children who will read about it 100 years from now.

    1. Also on the same page, the UCP government makes the claim that:

      “Nothing is more important than protecting the safety of law-abiding citizens. Too many Albertans are being victimized…”

      This really sounds like it is a justification to crack down on people who break mask laws. Unfortunately too many UCP supporters believe that being law abiding just means obeying the laws you agree with.

  4. There’s no right way? Well, there is a wrong way, and it only takes half a brain to see it, no moral compass required. The wrong way is lining up field hospitals, for 750-plus people at a time to die from Covid indoors. The wronger way would be to let them die outdoors, but whatever. The wrong way is lining up reefer trucks for dead storage when the morgues and funeral homes can longer cope. Does one not understand this will add to the deficit? These things are not free, and who is going to pay for this disgrace? Taxpayers. Alberta taxpayers, that’s who.

    I’ve tried to put this in terms the premier can understand, but it’s probably not simple enough for him. So let me explain what’s happening on Twitter, which seems to be the only thing he gives the time of day, and the full dedication of a team of trolls.

    The Twittermill is working overtime. Twitterverse says that the morgues have already reached capacity, and reefer trucks have been requested. Rumor has it that citizen photographers intend to patrol the public streets in order to photograph reefer units parked outside hospitals, but just the ones that do not move for long periods. One particular food service company is on the watch list. Yes, food delivery units can be used for this purpose, as Alberta is under no obligation to purchase these units, nor to destroy them after use. They can return to service for food at any time. For the record, double-bunking is not allowed in reefers. Bodies, properly bagged, must be laid on the floor of the units, with room for walking in between. Which brings us to the issue of body bags. Rumor has it that an Edmonton hospital ran out of bags temporarily at one point already.

    Heard enough? I have. We thought it was bad when reefer units were used for sloppy storage at the medical examiner’s office last year, with bodies dragged about by funeral home staff. We thought it was bad when forklifts loaded bodies from hospitals into trucks in plain view on public streets in New York earlier this year. Alberta’s situation is far worse, because it didn’t need to happen. This was preventable. We had time to plan ahead and take the steps to avoid the troubles we’re in. Even now, as hospital porters are allegedly being trained in pandemic body removal protocols, the Dark Lord of Alberta stands by and does nothing. Welcome to the death camps, where Kenney is the Once and Future King.

    Be a hero, go for zero. How about, don’t treat grandma like a cord of wood in the back lot? But I might as well be whistling Dixie. He doesn’t care. Do you understand, citizens? He. Doesn’t. Care. The day of reckoning is here. What do you think of your Lord and Master now?

  5. Speaking of Australia, their restrictions on incoming international flights are stringent. An Aussie returning home claims that for any traveler, besides a passport and visa being in order, the passenger and the airline must be relatively certain before departure that admission will be granted by Australian immigration. Upon landing all passengers, native and foreign, must undergo an immediate 14 day quarantine in the arriving city at a hotel or similar lodging of the government’s choice paid for by the traveler. It seems to be working.

  6. The current news conference maybe the moment everyone sees the Angry Midget eat eat crow.

    Well, Kenney sniffed it anyway.

  7. How embarrassing it must be for Deena Hinshaw to be associated with Kenney and Shandro.

    There was a montage of the three of them in a CBC online article today on the latest update where it seems that, finally, after four weeks’ worth of prompting, they have finally acquiested to her advice.

    What is the market for Chief Medical Officers of Health and where else could she go?

    Talk about trapped in no-man’s land.

  8. I suppose it suits Albertans’ sense of importance to compare the province with Australia on the Covid-handling matter. However, if Alberta had possessed the acumen to merely follow Nova Scotia’s lead, Alberta would be crowing now, no Australia lockdown theme discussion required. There IS competence in the public health field in this country as it stands now, it just doesn’t exist from Quebec west, including BC which has been fairly useless as well of late. Amateur grade conservative politicians who can’t bear to share power with public health experts, and who ride their professionals to make sure they utter only “approved” waffling, are of course the problem. Henry in BC just got it wrong all by herself being too lax as Horgan let her run with her ideas — oh well.

    Today, we got the WHEN, WHERE, and HOW about the Pfizer vaccine program in Nova Scotia from our Chief PHO Dr Strang and the premier, together at a press conference. No fooling about or waffling. The cold storage units are going in across the province now, and there’s one up and running in Halifax. There’s dry run rehearsals starting tomorrow on logistics. Separately, the initial batch of 1,950 doses next week will be administered only in Halifax due to manufacturer recommendation about handling and getting used to procedures for training purposes, and frontline medical staff at our major hospital will get it. After that, it starts across the province as Pfizer instructs/monitors on effective local packing and shipping (to avoid spoilage0 to regional centres, which is also the beginning part of the dry run mentioned. Strang expects it will be next fall before vaccinations are complete, even if there are multiple vaccines available. The order of people getting the vaccinations is set. Meanwhile, Covid restrictions will apply as usual, lifted here and there as and if conditions warrant. We had 7 new virus cases today. Mobile testing is now at a poultry plant a mere few hours after two employees tested positive late on 7 Dec. Hell, we seem to have a government that actually gives a shit and isn’t just muddling through with excuses and ideology. No wonder the vast majority of citizens here seem content to follow along. Strang wears a different tie every day, and he has free ones sent him by people who appreciate a job well done. Being a down to earth type, he seems quite delighted to get those often custom-made ties. Then he gets down to business. And yes, Christmas is a bust: get used to the idea.

    Now, at least a month too late, kenney has woken up with reasonable restrictions IF they had been in place in early November. Pretty much had to. Being an outlier and getting too much national negative publicity is the only reason why. Otherwise he’d let people croak and not waste a second concerning himself about it. Now your visiting restrictions home and LTC and lockdown are worse than ours. Not that Albertans could bear to compare themselves with puny NS, so you’ll never hear about what works in a North American context, only with Australia.

  9. The problem is there is nothing conservative about these Reformers. They care only about themselves and their rich friends. Spreading lies is what they do best as former MLAs from the Lougheed era taught me.They are nothing like the true conservatives we proudly supported under Lougheed and Getty.

    In all the years our family knew Ralph Klein never once did any of us hear him call himself a conservative it was always a Liberal, yet as a lawyer friend pointed out there was nothing dumber than watching Klein supporters bad mouthing Liberals while they were supporting one. The truth was he was neither a Liberal or a Conservative he was likely the worse dictator Canada had ever seen up until Kenney. Isn’t it ironic that Kenney is also a Liberal turned Reformer.

    Apparently losing elections never taught Reformers Stephan Harper, Preston Manning, or Danielle Smith anything. Never once have any of them considered that the financial problem in Alberta could be easily fixed by bringing taxes and royalties back up to the levels that Lougheed had created, like Notley was trying to do.

    Instead they keep repeating their lie that we don’t have a revenue problem, only a spending problem , while, they continue to give away billions in oil royalties and increase tax breaks for their rich friends, and some how Ottawa is to be blamed for their shortfall. How stupid do they think we are? Well they know how stupid Albertans are they keep electing them.

    Kenney’s recent remarks on TV was the last straw. He said the average age of seniors dying with covid was 83 years old. The average age of seniors dying from old age was 82 years old. In other words if you were older than that who cares about you seemed to be his point.

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