Alberta broke its daily record for new COVID-19 cases and led the country in new cases. With 1,584 new cases, Alberta had more new cases than Canada’s two largest provinces, Quebec with 1,154, and Ontario with 1,534.
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Alberta hard, and our leadership is sending out mixed messages. While the pandemic was of upmost importance earlier in the year, provincial leaders shifted their focus to the economy over the summer and resisted calls from health care experts for a province-wide mandatory mask requirement. Alberta is now the only province without a province-wide mask mandate.
Premier Jason Kenney, who is in his second period of self-isolation after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 during a trip to northern Alberta earlier this month, has been silent on the daily record breaking cases. But although Kenney has been publicly silent on the surge in COVID cases and the many recent tragic deaths as a result of the virus, he was said to have recently appeared via Zoom at the Edmonton-South West United Conservative Party annual general meeting and a screenshot of him speaking via Zoom to the Canada India Foundation was circulating on social media this evening.
While no one is expecting Kenney to have all the answers, his disappearance is puzzling.
Even Health Minister Tyler Shandro has made only rare appearances outside the Legislative Assembly chamber lately, with most appearances related to defending Alberta’s ineffective COVID-19 tracing app.
In the absence of leadership, some UCP MLAs are filling the void with confusing information and mixed-messaging that undermines the work of public health professionals like Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
And a video circulating on social media showed Associate Minster of Mental Health and Addictions and Calgary-Foothills MLA Jason Luan claiming that the government’s COVID-19 plan was to wait for hospital intensive care units to reach full capacity before changing course. Luan later retracted his comments in a carefully prepared written statement.
As of Friday, 462 people had died of COVID-19 in Alberta. In this picture, ICU physician Dr. Simon Demers-Marcil calls a family to tell them a loved one died of COVID-19. Help prevent the spread of #COVID19ab by following all public health measures: https://t.co/C0V22rhMrD pic.twitter.com/EuVvcfV1Jh
— Alberta Health Services (@AHS_media) November 21, 2020
Meanwhile, the situation in hospital ICU’s across Alberta has reached serious levels. Not only are ICU beds filling up, but the pandemic is taking a serious toll on the health care professionals required to staff these intensive units. Most staff are overworked and having to work many additional shifts to cover for co-workers who have been exposed to COVID and are required to go into self-isolation.
In many cases, nurses and health workers are taking time-off without pay because their sick leave banks have run dry and a special self-isolation leave was ended by Alberta Health Services in July.
And rumours are circulating tonight that Kenney may break his silence and join Dr. Hinshaw at a press conference tomorrow to announce a new series of measures to combat the pandemic, maybe even more stringent than the strongly encouraged voluntary measures that have clearly not been working.
David Khan to step down as Liberal Party leader
The congenial Khan has run under the provincial Liberal Party banner four times since 2014 and was chosen as party leader after launching a last-minute candidacy in 2017.
While Khan placed a strong third in Calgary-Buffalo in 2015, he finished a distant fourth in Calgary-Mountain View in 2019 as his party’s fortunes collapsed across the province. While he performed respectfully in the televised leaders debate, the Liberals were unable to break into what was largely two-party race between the UCP and NDP.
The 2019 election marked the first time since 1982 that the Liberals did not elect an MLA to the Legislative Assembly.