Kenney will join Hinshaw for COVID-19 update as Alberta asks feds for help

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health will be joined by Premier Jason Kenney Tuesday evening to provide an update on COVID-19 in the province.

Their news conference is scheduled for 5 p.m. and will be streamed live in this article post.

Alberta’s Infrastructure minister said Tuesday that the province has officially asked Ottawa for help with the COVID-19 crisis.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to boost health-care capacity during the public health emergency, we have formally asked the federal government to assist us with patient transfers and critical care staff,” Ric McIver shared on Twitter.

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In his letter to federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, McIver wrote: “We are preparing contingency plans, which include the possibility of transferring patients to other jurisdictions with spare capacity.”

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The letter identified two ways the federal government could help:

Providing aero-medical evacuation capabilities, including, where possible, skilled transfer personnel, to relocate patients outside Alberta;Augmentation to AHS of critical care staff, specifically intensive care unit registered nurses and respiratory therapists.
McIver requested an immediate meeting to discuss the requests.

As part of Alberta's ongoing efforts to boost health care capacity during the public health emergency, we have formally asked the federal government to assist us with patient transfers and critical care staff.

Read my letter to @BillBlair: ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/DZGrqYW7Pp

— Ric McIver (@RicMcIver) September 21, 2021

The Opposition says the timing the the UCP’s request is political.

“Alberta’s front-line health-care workers need all the help they can get as they struggle with the emergency created by the UCP’s failure to act for months while this crisis escalated,” NDP health critic David Shepherd said in a statement.

“I hope the federal government is able to provide resources to relieve some of this excruciating pressure.

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“Albertans should be appalled that Ric McIver waited until after the federal election to make this call to Ottawa.

“Once again, the UCP is focused on politics instead of the terrible price that Albertans are paying right now, with record ICU admissions and thousands of life-saving surgeries cancelled.”

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The Kenney/Dr. Deena Hinshaw news conference will be preceded by a cabinet change announcement at 3:30 p.m.

Multiple sources have confirmed to Global News that Jason Copping will be named the new health minister by Kenney this afternoon, replacing Tyler Shandro.

Copping is the MLA for Calgary-Varsity and is currently the minister of Labour and Immigration.

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Shandro and Kenney have been facing sharp criticism for their handling of the COVID-19 crisis that has pushed the provincial health-care system to the brink of collapse.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been soaring for weeks, leading to the mass cancellation of surgeries and doctors being briefed on how to decide, if necessary, who gets life-saving help and who does not.

Kenney is also facing internal backlash from his own party rank and file and caucus members over his handling of the pandemic.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health has said the current spike was ignited when Kenney lifted almost all COVID-19 health restrictions on July 1, faster than any other province.

Record high ICU cases

The province currently has the highest number of ICU patients since the pandemic began, an AHS spokesperson told Global News on Tuesday.

“There are currently 294 patients in ICU, the vast majority of whom are COVID positive,” Kerry Williamson said.

“AHS continues to do all it can to ensure we have enough ICU capacity,” he added. “AHS has opened 35 additional ICU surge spaces in the past seven days.”

AHS has added a total of 162 surge spaces, expanding Alberta’s ICU capacity to 335.

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Provincially, ICU capacity (including additional surge beds) is 88 per cent.

“Without the additional surge spaces, provincial ICU capacity would be 170 per cent,” Williamson said.

“The number of patients in ICU has increased by nine per cent in the past seven days.”

Triage protocol has not been implemented, but health-care staff continue to be educated on the document and what it means, AHS said.

“The critical care triage protocol will only be implemented if all other efforts at creating additional capacity have been exhausted.”

Alberta Health confirmed Monday that the province identified 1,605 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, 1,592 on Saturday and 1,436 on Sunday.

There were 20,614 active cases across the province as of Monday.

There were 16,409 COVID-19 tests done Friday, 16,529 on Saturday and 13,389 on Sunday.

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As of Monday, there were 954 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 216 of whom were in the ICU. To compare, on Friday, there were 911 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 215 of whom were being cared for in ICU.

Of the 216 patients in ICU with COVID-19, 91.2 per cent are unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated, Hinshaw shared on Twitter Monday.

Alberta’s positivity rate sat at around 10.8 per cent on Monday.

Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 2,545, after adding 22 fatalities over the weekend.

On Sept. 20, Alberta’s version of the vaccine passport — the restrictions exemption program — went into effect at non-essential businesses.

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The program permits businesses who opt-in to continue operating as usual (with masks required indoors) by requiring proof of vaccination from all patrons. Those businesses who opt-out of the REP must abide by masking, capacity and operational restrictions.

Outgoing Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the way the province has been communicating changes and approaches to the public health crisis has been “unbelievably frustrating for municipalities, it’s unbelievably frustrating for businesses who are expected to adopt new rules at the drop of the hat.

“All of this stuff happens in the absence of any consultation with people on the ground,” he said.

“The province has abandoned telling anybody what they’re doing, because they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re making it up as they go along. So I get to watch at the same time as everyone else.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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