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Alberta's top doctor admits she lulled residents into false security over COVID-19, apoligizes

Last Updated Sep 15, 2021 at 7:11 am EDT

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is banning most visits to long-term care and group homes in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is walking back statements she made several months ago about the state of the coronavirus.

In a Primary Care Network panel, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says she may have lulled Albertans into a false sense of security over COVID-19, apologizing for claiming that the pandemic was over back in July.

“I feel very responsible for the narrative that has made it more complicated to put additional health measures in place,” Hinshaw said.

“Whether or not it was my intention, what was heard at the end of July was COVID is over, we can walk away and ignore it. That has had repercussions and I deeply regret how that has played out.”

She explained that the province is still dealing with a deadly fourth wave.


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“Obviously Alberta is in a significant crisis state right now, there’s no dancing around that. But I think it’s very important to remember that Delta caught a bunch of us unaware.”

She also walked back comments where she claimed COVID-19 was in an endemic state.

“I don’t know when we’ll get to a true endemic state,” she said during the panel.

“Unfortunately, Delta has spread much more quickly and has had more severe outcomes than we had anticipated, and that’s something that’s been seen in many places around the world.”


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She also regretted taking away contact tracing, but said it’s too late to rehire tracers and re-establish that system.

“Would I have taken away contact tracing if I had known this was going to be the fourth wave experience? I don’t think that would’ve been the right time to do it,” Hinshaw said.

“But once that had been taken away, to try and build it back up again in a time where we need health care providers to provide individual clinical care, we need them to do the testing, there’s a shortage of individuals to do all these roles. So, to bring healthcare professionals in to do the contact tracing, especially when I looked at our own trajectory of cases, when I looked at our neighbouring provinces, really at this point in time I think what the interventions that will make a difference are the other public health interventions.”


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Meanwhile, a former Alberta chief medical officer of health is warning of a looming “acute-care system breakdown” due to rising COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Doctor James Talbot said the worsening fourth wave of the pandemic could force doctors to triage patients, which could mean people who suffer a heart attack or pregnancy complication won’t survive because a bed isn’t available.

The province announced Tuesday that 212 Albertans are currently in intensive care — a record in this pandemic.

Talbot warns the situation will grow worse unless the government moves to curb the spread of the virus by reinstating public-health restrictions and implementing a vaccine passport system.

In B.C., there has been a seven per cent increase in vaccine doses administered to people between the ages of 18-39 after that province introduced vaccine passports.

“I think it’s pretty clear that requirements, especially for discretionary activities, can have an impact on those age groups where we most need right now to increase our uptake,” Hinshaw said.

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