Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

The Omicron surge is hitting everywhere in Canada, with Alberta reporting 872 new cases of the aggressive new variant of the COVID-19 virus over the weekend, bringing the total number of reported cases yesterday to 1,045.

If patterns observed elsewhere in the world are repeated here, though, this province could have well over 16,000 Omicron COVID-19 cases by New Year’s Day. By then it will be well on its way to becoming the dominant strain of COVID in Alberta.

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd (Photo: Mack Male, Creative Commons).

Meanwhile, there’s no sign the Alberta Government has any plans to pull back from the relaxed COVID restrictions Premier Jason Kenney announced to widespread dismay less than a week ago on Dec. 15. 

Experienced observers of Mr. Kenney’s conduct in office predict nothing will be done, if anything ever is, until after the moneymaking potential of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays has been fully exploited. 

Indeed, there’s a chilling familiarity to the scene unfolding in Wild Rose Country. We’ve seen this all before, most strikingly during the fourth wave of COVID’s Delta variant last summer, which the premier promised would be “the Best Summer Ever” before decamping in August for parts unknown and leaving no one in charge. 

There was no COVID-19 briefing by the premier or Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw yesterday. 

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd did hold a news conference yesterday afternoon, telling reporters that “Jason Kenney and his UCP Government seem to have given up the fight and simply cut Albertans adrift.”

The last time that Jason Kenney let Albertans know what his government was doing to confront Omicron was last week,” Mr. Shepherd said. “And that’s when he announced he was loosening restrictions to allow unvaccinated people to attend indoor social gatherings.”

Mr. Shepherd called on the premier to reverse the relaxation of COVID control measures and release modelling data. 

Precocious video blogger Wyatt Sharpe (Photo: Youtube.com).

Meanwhile, there’s been no indication so far in Kenney Government communications that anything is planned for today.

Dr. Hinshaw’s expected to hold a news conference to address the frightening situation, CTV’s Kevin Nimmock tweeted hopefully yesterday afternoon. “Her office would not confirm whether that news conference is scheduled,” he went on, though, “but she usually appears on Tuesdays.” (I have lightly edited Mr. Nimmock’s tweet to correct a minor typo. Emphasis is also added.) 

Will Mr. Kenney be at the news conference? Or is he about to take a powder once again as he did last summer, and indeed has done serially whenever his government faces controversy or bad news? 

Of course, in addition to the danger of the rising tide of Omicron infections growing into a full-fledged fifth wave of COVID, Mr. Kenney may also want to avoid questions about Friday’s flawed distribution of rapid COVID tests, not to mention his bitter rival Brian Jean’s selection as the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election. 

Meanwhile, though, there are troubling signs Mr. Kenney is once again flirting with the Great Barrington Declaration, the long discredited notion that all will be well if we just lock up the old folks for their own safety and let the pandemic rip till we all have herd immunity. 

He talked like this last spring, and he was doing it again last week, when he sat down for an interview with a strangely precocious 12-year-old video-podcaster from Ontario and blithely allowed how “we have to expect that probably virtually everyone is going to be infected at this variant at some point. It’s that widespread. 

“Let us hope that the early data coming from South Africa continues to hold and that it is probably a mild variant,” Mr. Kenney told Wyatt Sharpe, and we can all second that, although without the premier’s cheerful optimism. 

I wrote last spring that Albertans had found themselves living in a Petri dish, “an ongoing experiment in how the Great Barrington declaration really works.” 

As expected, it didn’t work very well. 

That doesn’t seem to have weakened Mr. Kenney’s charming faith in the convenient doctrine, however. 

Fasten your seat belts and cinch up your KN95 masks!

Update: At 10:30 a.m., the Alberta Government notified media that a news conference with Mr. Kenney, Dr. Hinshaw, and Health Minister Jason Copping is planned for 3:30 p.m. today.

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27 Comments

  1. The pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP never learn. Here we go again. Best Summer Ever was such a smash hit in Alberta, that the UCP are making a sequel to that horror movie, called Best Winter Ever. Since winter is now officially here, and the Christmas holidays are upon us, Albertans can’t get a refund, or exchange the gift the UCP has given them, which is wave number 5 of Covid-19. Come January, things will really be bad in Alberta. How much tire tracks will Dr. Deena Hinshaw have, after she is constantly thrown under the bus by the UCP? The UCP will likely get rid of her, because they need an easily accessible target to blame for the problems they created. Justin Trudeau is too far away. The other scary thing is who Dr. Deena Hinshaw would be replaced with. The UCP is also likely looking after the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta badly, so they can overburden hospitals in Alberta, just so they can follow their hero, the Liberal turned Reformer, Ralph Klein’s dream of having private for profit healthcare in Alberta. It’s also going to be a gong show when the UCP have to deal with lawsuits pertaining to people perishing in Alberta from Covid-19 and pershing from the healthcare related issues that go with it. Albertans were given prior warnings that the UCP would be bad, but they refused to listen. This is what they ended up with. These are the same people who refused to listen to those of us who said that Ralph Klein wasn’t good. After 2023, will Albertans still have not learned their lesson about these pretend conservatives and Reformers? What will it take for them to learn their lesson?

    1. So the UCP produced this “wave number 5”? I will certainly accept the premise that goverment policies, everywhere in the world, are the determinant of Covid “cases”, but what do you suppose accounts for the surges in BC numbers in mid-September? Any thoughts on the Ontario “wave”?
      Who do you suppose would be in a position to sue over a Covid death, given that the average Covid death is still a person afflicted with at least three pre-existing conditions, and is over the age of seventy?
      The only Covid “death” to which I have any personal connection is a man who was massively brain-injured in a motor vehicle wreck in 2017. He lingered for four years in care, and finally succumbed this spring. His wife went ballistic when they listed his cause of death as Covid, as he had never had a test and had been essentially dying for four years.
      I could barely contain my laughter today when I read that 61.08% of Active Cases in Alberta are double-vaccinated, and 74.48% of New Cases are double-vaccinated. Given the current story of marauding Omicron laying waste to the unvaccinated heathens, that sure is some strange news.

      Meanwhile, I await with baited breath the investigation into the panicked abuse of the frail, sick, elderly that gave us 61% of Covid “deaths” in Alberta from the 29 000 in long-term care after they locked late-stage Alzaheimer’s patients in their rooms 24/7. Better than the univestigated kill-off in Quebec, I suppose, where they actually abandoned the frail, sick, elderly to die in their own filth before the Army moved in.

      But you, know, keep up the trembling and thank the gas-lighting fear-mongers who have been yelling “fire” in the metaphorical movie theatr for the last 22 months.

      As we’re in the equivalent of WW2, I i remain baffled that not a single program of infrastructure to deal with this killer of the ages has been introduced. No nurse training like the Commonwealth Air Training program, no specialized buildings with high-tech isolation and venitlation. Literally nothing but the crappy vaccines from the criminal pharmaceutical companies.

      Love me some Moderna!

      1. Interesting slant there, Murphy. You quoted some interesting stats as though they made some sort of coherent point, but I’m afraid that I didn’t pick up what you were supposed to be putting down. You left out the statistic that is most relevant – of the hospitalized patients with covid, the unvaccinated account for 61% and vaccinated account for 35%. I’m sorry that you have misinterpreted what medical science has been saying the whole time, but double vaccinated people will still likely be susceptible to infection, especially of a variant since it has differences from the virus the vaccine was produced for, but their rate of serious complications is overwhelmingly lower. This isn’t a game of immunity, despite JFK’s assertions, it’s a game of harm reduction. We know how to save lives and prevent damage, but our politicians know how to manipulate groups of people to their own advantage (even if it costs many lives).

        I can understand that you think that a bunch of people with existing conditions who also contract covid and pass away isn’t worth your consideration because you have no emotional investment in them and their death doesn’t bother you, but it’s likely that it bothers someone and empathy and sympathy are not things to be avoided. You may not know of anyone who has died from covid (other than one person that you feel certain from anecdotal sources didn’t die from covid despite it being listed as the cause of death) but that doesn’t mean that it’s fake. You sound like the quintessential conservative – if it didn’t happen to you or yours then it’s a big conspiracy to get your money or freedom.

        Are you baffled that JFK and Justin Trudeau seem more intent in making sure that rich people continue to earn even more money than on dealing with a pandemic like they wish to minimize harm? Have you ever actually paid attention to our government?

      2. MURPHY: I’ll put it in the most basic terms. The UCP has a very hard time learning from the past. There has been instances where they shunned doctor’s recommendations, and this didn’t pan out so well for Alberta with the Covid-19 pandemic. A circuit breaker was called for at least twice, by doctors in Alberta. The UCP brushed that off. Late fall of 2020, during the month of November, and in early spring of this year, in April, are when doctors in Alberta were saying we must have a circuit breaker. The head honcho of the UCP then said that Albertans could not spend the Christmas holidays or have Easter celebrations with their kinfolk and acquaintances. It was a no go. Another really good (actually, bad) example was when the head honcho of the UCP, and his health minister, Tyler Shandro, were proclaiming in the last week of June that Covid-19 in Alberta was gone, and we will open things up, and the buzz words were Best Summer Ever. The results of that weren’t so great. They were a nightmare. It’s like an intersection where people cross. If pedestrians keep getting hit by vehicles there, the city council must act and put in traffic lights. The UCP has done a very dismal job of looking after the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta.

  2. Herd immunity? Omicron couldn’t care less whether you’ve already had Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or been triple-vaxxed. It’s mutated enough to get you infected regardless, with only the degree of new illness in question depending on your past history with a variety of Covid and/or jabs. And boy, do you shed viral particles or what! That’s why it’s so damn contagious. kenney has gone all fatalistic on his flock — virtually everyone’s going to get it, he says. Ah, so enjoy Xmas, folks! Among the unvaxxed, it’ll cut like a hot knife through butter. So, if they don’t believe in modern medicine, why should modern medicine help them when they get ill, as they surely will? Triage should select the badly affected already-vaxxed first for treatment and let the stupid glug ivermectin as they blame Fauci or doctors for administering “experimental poison” . If there’s any advice i can personally reject outright, it’s the nonsense anti-vaxxers spout. Whatever actually happens, it’s obvious kenney, the king of leading from the rear, doesn’t give a ratsass beyond wolfing down a gluttonous Xmas dinner himself . The rest of you peons can look after yourselves, and the best of luck. Dilbit Forever!

  3. No one is going into another lockdown for Omicron. How do you super lockdown morons not see that you’re the EXACT same as the COVID deniers? Youre just the oppisite extreme, but EXTREMISTS none the less. Y’all need to check your fear and stop ruining peoples lives, JUST LIKE the anti-vaxxers and virus-deniers. Try meeting in the middle, OR risk being ignored for being catastrophizing, mentally unstable control freaks.

    We will NOT lockdown again.

    1. Wishful thinking, perhaps? Or, might it be the case that you know Kenney cares sweet f* all for the citizens of the province as whole and is only interested in his base and holding on to power. We have not really been in lockdown in Alberta, ever, not when you consider what Ontario did to enforce an earlier lockdown or what Quebec is doing now, let alone what China did. Spoiled or what?

      I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do know what the credible media has to say about the Omicron variant: that it is certainly far more contagious than previous variants, that being vaccinated gives you some protection against developing serious symptoms should you become infected, and that the evidence is not certain whether it, overall, results in milder symptoms or not. Even if it does result in milder symptoms, a lot more people will become infected because of the high R value and there will be many more outliers, as a consequence, that have serious, life-threatening symptoms that require hospitalization.

      Yes, I am tired of the media constantly turning up the volume to 11 for some of this stuff – I do think there is some overreaction. But, really, people are suffering and dying needlessly because of the botched response of this incompetent government. And, I am not talking about exclusively about people who get Covid. I am talking about people whose surgeries and other medical care are cancelled. For example, there are some pretty scary statistics about the increased mortality that results from delays in surgery to remove breast cancer tumors. These are needless deaths from cancer caused by Covid 19 patients clogging up the hospitals. Have some sympathy and empathy.

      We cannot afford to let our hospital systems get overwhelmed because of Covid. That affects us all equally, whether you are an anti-vaxxer, Covid denier, or whatever.

      1. How can you people possibly continue to accept this rubbish about overwhelming the system with Covid? The system operated on a knife-edge long before Covid. They were putting people in tents in the US back in 2018. If this was real, you woul have seen the billions spent on CERB welfare go to building temporary hospitals with state-of-the-art ventillation and isolation equipment. Ten thousand RNs would have been turned out in the last two years in crash courses to deal with a plague.
        But nothing was done. Literally the opposite occurred, with closures and lock-downs of educational and health facilities.
        I am absolutely baffled by the believers in this particular psychological operation. You folks will literally buy anything at this juncture.

        1. Yeah it’s almost like many of us are well informed with peers in health care and your nonsensical ramblings ; after two years, are meaningless.

          Boo , hiss, go be mad on Facebook. No one cares.

    2. “Davesucks”, what do you mean, “again”? We have never had a full, Melbourne- or New Zealand-style lockdown in Alberta. We have only had weak, unenforced “restrictions”, such as capacity limits in indoor places, and intermittent mask mandates honoured in the breach than in the observance. If we had, and if it had been done right, many hundreds of Alberta lives might have been saved.

  4. Connecting the Kenney government’s Covid 19 policies with the Great Barrington declaration is interesting and informative, to say the least.

    There is nothing “Great” about this declaration — the declaration is eponymously named after the place where it was signed, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The declaration argues against the public health measures that most scientists and health professionals recommend and advocates instead for a strategy known as “focused protection” (FP). The declaration is based on the dubious assertions (paraded as fact) that 1) lockdowns (which we have never truly experienced in, say, the way China imposed lockdowns) cause more widespread harm to public health than the virus, that the public health approaches to mitigate the pandemic cause more harm than good; 2) Covid 19 is not as dangerous to the young as it is to the old and medically vulnerable. 3) Herd immunity can be reached and the threshold for herd immunity lowered by following simple, common-sense measures, such as frequent hand washing. Armed with these assertions, the authors of the declaration argue that we should protect the old and medically vulnerable and let the young and healthy go about their lives with some simple enhanced hygiene measures. Basically, what this means is that you rely to a large extent on developing herd immunity as quickly as possible and locking up the old people and other vulnerable segments of the population in nursing homes or quarantining them in their homes so that the young and healthy to go about and enjoy their lives as normal. These measures would only be temporary because, at some point, we would reach herd immunity and we could let the medically vulnerable and old out of their prisons.

    There are many problems with FP and the Great Barrington declaration that are too numerous to mention. Here are just a couple.

    It should come as no surprise to many readers here that there is a connection between the declaration and climate science denial. This connection occurs at a number of levels. First, the declaration itself was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), a free-market, libertarian think tank that “operates as part of a Koch-funded network of climate science deniers” (https://bylinetimes.com/2020/10/09/climate-science-denial-network-behind-great-barrington-declaration). Second, the declaration uses the same tactics and strategies and climate science denial advocates. These include creating the perception that scientific validity can be achieved by signing up more scientists than the other side, magnifying minority opinions to create the impression of scientific controversy where none exists, obfuscating scientific claims, cherry picking evidence, and so on.

    Consider also the disturbing implications in the declaration that we should quarantine the old and medically vulnerable while the young can go about their lives with few, if any, restrictions. You can’t keep the virus away from the old and medically vulnerable no matter how carefully you lock them up. As Gregg Gonsalves, a Yale epidemiologist states, The idea that you can keep outbreaks among the young away from the elderly is ridiculous. They can spin it however they like, but they don’t really have a plan—it’s grotesque, and it borders on eugenics. (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/10/the-great-barrington-plan-for-re-opening-is-championed-as-good-for-the-poor-its-not/)”

    Speaking of eugenics, has not Alberta been down this path before with its legislation, the “Sexual Sterilization Act”, to prevent “the transmission of evil.” Perhaps Bumbles and crew want to take us back to those halcyon days of the 1930s.

    1. Some curious interpretations in your reply. Even the most devout Covid congregationalist cannot deny that Covid is not dangerous to the young unless they are medically compromised. Covid deaths in Alberta are 76% over age 70. Until May, 61% had occurred in the fewer than 30 000 people in long-term care, and 73% have three pre-existing conditions. The bug causes hospitalization in children on a scale equal to other common seasonal respiratory viruses.

      Perhaps the thing that is most tragic, or hilarious, about you folks, is that you have agreed to a complete corporate take-over of the entirety of socio-economic life in the name of protection from Covid. The single most odious practice in neoliberalism is the use of 3P rip-offs, and the folks who brought you Covid live and breathe this form of private profit and public risk.

      Capitalism died in the summer of 2019, and it has been replaced with a new, albeit likely temporary system, wherein sovereign debt is used in place of the pursuit of profit by plutocratic speculators. And you have all lined up to hand them the family silver because you accepted the absurd tenets of a global psychological operation cooked up by corporate scammers in collusion with the military-industrial-intelligence complex.

      Good job.

      1. Murphy, I said nothing about the impact of Covid on the young. I merely pointed out a flaw in the GBD that you could somehow prevent transmission of the pathogen from the young and healthy (and often asymptomatic carriers) to the old and medically compromised. You are reading far too much into my reply than is actually there. If you want my views on capitalism here they are: unregulated or poorly regulated capitalism is a bane and is largely responsible for the mess we are in (not just Covid but climate change denial, the rise of autocracies, etc). I dislike the neo-liberal agenda as well. Nor do I think your analysis is correct that capitalism has been temporarily replaced. There is still lots of plutocratic speculation that is going on right now and it is in no danger of being replaced any time soon, alas. Case in point: the absurd situation we find ourselves in wherein much public money was spent pre-Covid to assist in the development of the underlying technologies that are responsible for the miracle of mRNA vaccines, yet these vaccines are afforded patent protections that make it very difficult to transfer this life-saving technology and expertise, not to mention manufacturing capability, to regions, such as Africa, that desperately need them. Meanwhile, the drug companies are raking money in hand over fist while large parts of the human population remain unvaccinated, incubating other Covid variants.

        Also, I am not sure how you are able to infer that people who just want the government to follow the science, rather than ideology and appeals to their base, in determining prudent public health measures that will protect us from the worst effects of this disease are naive and incredulous rubes that have bought a scam cooked up by the military-industrial-complex. That is quite a leap. The virus is real. The responses, locally, provincially, nationally, and globally have been lacking. The responses on a provincial level have been egregiously lacking.

  5. Kenny’s focus is not on the health and welfare of Albertans.

    His focus is squarely on avoiding a palace revolt. I suspect this revolt is inevitable. If not by his UCP members and Executive, then by Alberta voters. The only question is which will happen first.

    Interesting that we have a Conservative leaders in Alberta and in Ottawa who are both facing significant descent within their own respective parties.

    UCP Party Executive should be learning from the disaster that their federal Conservative Party first cousins have landed themselves in. Three consecutive election losses combined with a virtual shutout in urban ridings across the country. It is what happens when the Party is out of touch with the voters.

  6. I find it hilarious that there are still people who are promoting the “Great Barrington Declaration” even though it has caused more trouble than is mentionable. That and one of its august signatories is a ‘Dr. I. M. Shitestain’. Kenney can’t stop talking about it, along with the so called ‘Great Reset’ and the evil that the Ford Foundation will do in Alberta. (I guess this means Alberta should boycott Fords?)

    Since it has been noted that Kenney, nor has anyone else in the UCP government, has bothered to even consider the notion that maybe somebody should make an announcement of some kind about the latest COVID variant, it’s apparent that they’ve put the ‘Gone on Vacation’ sign on the door. When will they be back? Who knows?

    And on the subject of long absences, I’m counting the days that Kenney will not be showing his face. While there has recently been an announcement that no member of the government is permitted to leave Canada for the holidays, I suspect that this announcement, which was a revision to an earlier announcement that allowed everyone to go where ever they liked, was dropped because Kenney wanted to give himself a loophole to go aboard for his vacation. Sure, he said he was spending Christmas with three people from outside his family (Wait! What?) but he didn’t say where. I think it’s likely Kenney has taken off to some Red State, where he will be in hiding until near the middle of January, and likely won’t pop his head up until closer to the end of that month. Of course, he’s thinking it’s best not to be back in Alberta until the latest COVID variant blows over, something has happened to Brian Jean, or everyone has forgotten that Jason Kenney is the premier of Alberta.

    It’s funny how this guy’s mind works, huh?

  7. Perhaps this is Kenney’s way of psychologically preparing us for disaster. While it sounds very defeatist, I suppose it is better than going around and proclaiming it will be the greatest winter ever. Maybe it is a round about way of reassuring some in the UCP base, Kenney is not eager to impose restrictions any time soon (ie. before Christmas). In any event, whatever his motivations, Kenney and the UCP seldom seem to hit the right note when it comes to dealing with COVID.

    Probably all this is mostly because the UCP is more divided about what to do about COVID than Albertans in general, so we get a repeated cycle of inaction and denial followed by more severe restrictions needed later than would have been necessary initially, when that becomes unsustainable. By trying to satisfy everyone in the UCP, Kenney seems to satisfy no one. Those more severe restrictions will probably be irritating many UCP members just in time for his leadership review.

    I’m wondering if Kenney has a subconscious desire to sabotage what is left of his political career, or perhaps it is just ongoing incompetence and ineptitude resulting in the same thing.

    1. Donaldo, Dr. Hinshaw can provide all the sage advice and guidance as she likes. Ultimately, though, it is up to Premier Bumbles and his caucus to follow it. They can refuse the advice, take it, or throw it back in her face. It is their choice. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing what advice she and the CMOH staff is providing to the government and have no way of knowing, therefore, what they are following or not. Great, she wrote a credible piece that is critical of the GBD. This does not mean that her views are being respected or that they form a significant part of public policy. It sure looks like Kenney is not following good advice, and it looks like he is ignoring the CMOH’s arguments against the GBD. Anyway, we will see what new measures, if any, the government will have for us later today.

  8. A recent with the Calgary Sun column presented a comical look into Kenney’s mind.

    For one thing, he believes he’s an excellent premier, a fine individual, definitely not friendly, but loved by all. He sees no animus towards any aspect of his character or leadership. If anything, Kenney sees himself as the victim since day one; he’s the victim of leftists, Red Tories, the Elites, eco-lobbyists, the media, and the usual anger targets he keeps rolling out.

    But the best part of this interview was when he said he has had a good time at a local Calgary Legion Hall (the location of the interview) where he’s been for hours, while the patrons were handing him shots and talking to him about every topic. At the time of the interview, Kenney was nursing a Diet Coke.

    So, Kenney believes he’s widely admired while he’s likely hammered out of his skull. Interesting.

  9. The entire Covid narrative has been beyond absurd from the very moment George Gao contacted the WHO and to launch the panic with under 30 cases in China, and it just keeps getting sillier.
    Cinch up your KN95 as tight as you want, they cannot protect you from infectious respiratory viruses, as we knew long before Covidmania that such pathogens are spread on aersolized particles that are much smaller than the 3um threshold for such masks. But science went out the window in February, 2020.

    Will we reach a point where you people come to terms with the fact that the perception of Covid has been generated by the same kind of bodies that produced Vietnam body-counts and the Iraqi WMD fiasco?

    I have been alive in the period in which Nixon and Kissinger lied their way through the invasion of Cambodia, in which the increase in average real wage diverged permanently from increases in worker production while the rich returned to gilded age levels of economic power, in which the B team created an entirely fake threat of Soviet military supremacy to justify trillions in military spending, and in which the same people created a parallel government to traffic cocaine in order to pay for weapons to illegally sell to Iran, in order to fund an illegal assault on the sovereign state of Nicaragua. The entire Covid narrative is generated from the institutional entities involved in these criminal activities, and people who should know better can’t get enough of the B-movie plot twists.

    I just cannot wrap my mind around continued acceptance of these ridiculous proclamations.
    Two weeks to flatten the curve! Well, by now the curve must have wrapped around itself like a Slinky.

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