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“We are actively considering additional targeted measures, particularly in areas that are being hardest hit.”

Lisa Johnson
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks at a $59 million funding announcement for the Rockyview Hospital in Calgary on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia
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Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta is mulling stronger public health measures in its two largest COVID-19 hot spots.
Banff and Fort McMurray, in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, have the highest active COVID-19 case rates in the province at 1,160 and 1,555 cases per 100,000 people respectively, and could see restrictions beyond the provincewide retail capacity limits and indoor dining ban.
We are actively considering additional targeted measures, particularly in areas that are being hardest hit. Let me be absolutely clear, this government will not allow our health-care system to be overwhelmed, said Kenney at Wednesday news conference.
Kenney did not elaborate on what the restrictions would be. All Fort McMurray K-12 schools have temporarily pivoted to online learning.
For now, the province is lowering vaccine eligibility in Banff and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to anyone born in 1991 and redirecting upcoming shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to those areas.
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The premiers comments mark a shift in tone after weeks of dismissing calls for stricter health measures as cases and hospitalizations have climbed in the province.
Kenney has said in the past the province would consider imposing new, targeted regional restrictions in hot spots if necessary, but so far that has only happened for schools shifting to online learning at the request of school boards.
Alberta has the highest active case rate in the country, at 474 per 100,000 people, and is on course to exceed its pandemic peak of 20,972 active cases in December after reporting 20,938 on Wednesday.
There are 643 Albertans hospitalized with COVID-19, including 145 in intensive care units, and pressure on hospitals is expected to increase in the next two to three weeks.
Kenney said the provinces health-care system has the capacity to deal with the surge in cases.
We believe that they can accommodate up to 425 functional, staffed ICU beds for COVID patients, should it be necessary, said Kenney, adding that Alberta Health Services is working to revise its triage protocol.
AHS announced Tuesday that up to 30 per cent of scheduled surgical procedures in the Edmonton, Calgary and North Zones will be delayed to make room for COVID-19 hospitalizations.
At the same time as he suggested restrictions could be imposed in the two hot spots, Kenney claimed some restrictions wont curb the spread of COVID-19 because they would be ignored.
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Properly targeted restrictions that people actually comply with can be a useful tool in limiting viral spread, but indiscriminate restrictions that people ignore broadly are not an effective tool, said Kenney.
He pointed to Peru as an example of non-compliance. But public health experts have said the countrys months-long stay-at-home order failed by design, partly because the vast majority of Peruvians are unable to work from home and many have to venture to markets multiple times a week because they dont have refrigerators.
Meanwhile, New Zealand where more than 40 per cent of employees did at least some work from home during its first of two strict lockdowns has been able to curb COVID-19 twice.
NDP health critic David Shepherd said Kenneys assertion that there is no direct link between public health restrictions and preventing community spread showed weak and dishonest leadership.
Albertas response has been hampered by the constant flow of misinformation from Premier Jason Kenney, said Shepherd in a statement Wednesday.
Alberta has seen a decrease in case numbers after imposing restrictions. On Dec. 14, the seven-day average of new cases was 1,669. After weeks of a ban on social gatherings and a shutdown of bars, restaurants, lounges, casinos, and hair salons, case numbers dropped to a seven day average of 303 new cases per day as of Feb. 13 numbers comparable to those seen in late October, before the second wave.
lijohnson@postmedia.com
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