By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – About three months after Premier Jason Kenney exclaimed that Alberta was “open for summer,” COVID case counts in the province have been on an upward trajectory.
While Ontario cautiously kept many of its public health measures in place, Alberta’s government ended all COVID restrictions, including a province-wide mask mandate, on July 1.
Now Alberta has the highest rate of infections in Canada, with the most recent seven-day-average as of Oct. 1 at 1,635 cases. As of Sept. 30, Ontario — with about triple the population of Alberta — had a seven-day-average of 597 cases.
On Sept. 29, Alberta hit its highest number of ICU admissions throughout the pandemic with 264 patients, with the Canadian Red Cross and Canadian Armed Forces coming to assist overburdened hospital staff. Ontario hasn’t logged more than 169 ICU admissions since Sept. 3.
The only province with a greater percentage of its population dying of COVID over the past two weeks is Saskatchewan.
University of Alberta infectious diseases professor Dr. Ilan Schwartz says Alberta’s government has “completely abdicated its responsibility” to keep the public safe from COVID.
“Alberta was reckless in dropping all restrictions and declaring the pandemic over. Jason Kenney infamously declared that we were in the post-pandemic era, that COVID was no longer a risk and basically threw caution to the wind — that was a grave misstep,” he told the CBC.
“But what made things much, much worse is the inability to respond to the data that demonstrated a rising number of cases.”
At this point, Alberta’s healthcare system has “completely collapsed,” Schwartz added.
“It’s not just that we’re on the verge of collapse, I think that’s misleading at this point — we’ve completely collapsed,” he said.
Schwartz says overcrowded ICU units have created a “completely dysfunctional healthcare system.”
“People might think that they’re vaccinated, and so they don’t need to worry about this. But the fact is that if we can’t provide safe ICU care, period, then everybody is at risk,” said Schwartz.
“Every time people get on a tractor, or get in a car, and go on the highway — there’s always been risk associated with that — but now there’s no safety net.”