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Friday , 16 April 2021

Kenney hopes for next step of re-opening this week; vaccinating Albertans over 50 could be key to lifting mass restrictions

“I think once we’ve got the majority of Albertans, that are sort of north of 50 vaccinated, we’re going to be in a whole totally different world. And that should be later this spring, we estimate that we should be able to administer at least an initial dose to every willing Albertan by the end of June,” said Kenney. 

Premier Jason Kenney said he hopes the province can move into the next phase of re-opening the province this week and hinted toward mass restrictions being eased if the majority of Albertans over 50 get vaccinated–something he suggests could come in late spring if vaccine shipments arrive.

In an interview with Lakeland Connect on Friday, Kenney was asked if he believes it is reasonable to move into Step 3 of the government’s Path Forward to re-opening as Monday as the first opportunity to ease more restrictions since there is fewer than 300 COVID hospitalizations.

According to the province’s COVID website, currently, there is 282 people in hospital as of Sunday night, a total that has slightly risen in recent days.

He said a meeting is scheduled on Monday to discuss what the government will do next.

“We’ll be taking advice from Dr. Hinshaw. And looking closely at the data. As our COVID Cabinet Committee meets on Monday, our key metric for the path forward in relaxing public health measures has been how many folks are in hospital with this disease right now.

But we also have to look at other things like how fast are the variants growing, they are far more contagious. What’s the positivity rate? Are things going in the wrong direction? Basically, what we need to avoid bottom line is tripping into exponential growth. Because once that takes off, it is really hard to stop or slow down.

“What’s our anticipated vaccines supplies? The federal government, I’m going to be blunt, they’ve screwed this up big time. You know, the UK and Israel are almost fully inoculated. The US is about one-third vaccinated, Canada we’re about 8 per cent. And we’re like 50th in the world on per capita in vaccination doses. Now they’re telling us that’s going to change in the next month, we sure as heck hope so. Because that that will give us as the decision makers greater confidence a higher kind of risk, tolerance, right in continuing to relax measures,” said Kenney. 

A signal for more activities returning to more normal settings could be post-secondary schools. On Thursday, the Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides said in a statement for post-secondaries to prepare for the return of on-campus learning in September.

However, variant cases are rising along with the last three day’s single day case increases. There has been 1807 new positive tests since Friday, 413 of those more contagious variants.

Vaccine speed crucial, but optimism for ‘totally different world’ by late spring

Kenney was asked about moving ahead and what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated before mass restrictions can be eased.

“The epidemiologists, the scientists will tell you that you reach herd immunity quote unquote, community immunity, when you’re out about 70 per cent that either have natural immunity through antibodies, because they already got the disease or through vaccines. Now I don’t think we need to wait till we’re at that point. We need to get the most vulnerable vaccinated.

“Now, here’s the key key number to look at. The average age of somebody hospitalized with COVID in Alberta is 60 years of age. So just think about that for a sec, half the people who end up in our hospitals with this disease are are under 60, typically in their 40s and 50s.

“The good news is this, we got the long term care, residents double dosed, and our death rate has come down dramatically. As a result, we’re getting the 80s and 70 somethings high levels of vaccination–that’s good news. But we’ve got to keep pushing that bar down. And I think once we’ve got the majority of Albertans, that are sort of north of 50 vaccinated, we’re going to be in a whole totally different world. And that should be later this spring, we estimate that we should be able to administer at least an initial dose to every willing Albertan by the end of June.

“And that means we should be able to get back to at least some summer events, for sure. Now, you’ll have to be careful about this. I don’t know how we’re going to pack 30,000 people into the stands next to each other in the Calgary Stampede, right, in the first week of July. But we can certainly, I’m very optimistic have summer events, outdoor events, and getting returning back to normal over the summer and certainly into the fall. Because we should be able to do the second dose for the entire population by September.

“All of that is dependent on the feds actually getting us the doses. They have disappointed us over and over again. Basically everything we thought we could do in February slipped that they didn’t get us the quantity of doses. So we’re just on them every single day to get those doses if they get what they’re promising, we’re going to have something much more like a normal summer.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.