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EDITORIAL: Kenney, Hinshaw not doing enough to address COVID-19

Leadership isn't about doing what is popular, it is about doing what is right.

Leadership isn't about doing what is popular. It is about doing what is right.

Right now, we have a clear lack of leadership from Premier Jason Kenney and Alberta's Chief Public Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw, who both continue to eschew taking direct action to address the skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the province.

Last Friday (Nov. 6), both stood in front of Albertans during a press conference and dismissed questions about why they are not doing more about this alarming trend. The data shows that case numbers are doubling every 10 days, and the average number of daily deaths has reached five.

That's five human beings every single day who are losing their life from something that is entirely preventable. Not to mention that the increasing case numbers and decreased number of health-care workers in the midst of this pandemic are further putting lives at risk.

Kenney's response was to minimize these losses and deflect his responsibility as premier by pointing to the fact that more Albertans have died this year due to other causes of death. This is simply not good enough. 

The premier seems to think that this an all or nothing situation, which is simply not true. He said a full-scale, unending lockdown would cause more harm to the economy and people's mental health than continuing to merely encourage people to do the right thing to prevent the spread of this virus.

This is a false dilemma – doing nothing, or engaging in a lockdown to the scale and extent that we experienced earlier this spring – are not the only options on the table.

We are not in the same situation we were in March and April. We know more now than we did then; we have better data and examples of other jurisdictions that have managed infection rates without taking extreme measures. 

It is time for the political and public health leaders of this province to step up and be responsible for the situation they are casually watching get worse. A targeted and strategic approach is needed, even if that means a short, two-week period where all Alberta hunkers down as a way to hit the reset button. What doctors and public health experts are calling a "circuit breaker."

How about making wearing masks mandatory for all indoor public places in Alberta and when people cannot socially distance in the outdoors? This measure would create an additional level of protection and result in greater compliance than just strongly recommending people take this precaution. 

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, this responsibility has been downloaded to municipalities to pursue as a reasonable and recommended measure.

While municipal councils, like Canmore and Banff's, adopted this measure early and arguably been successful with it, other communities are not as bold and are looking to the province to take the lead. 

Finally, the government of Alberta is also failing at contact tracing and testing. These are cornerstones to the public health response to this crisis.

There are no testing locations in Canmore at the moment. This is mind-boggling if you need to be tested and instead of having that service available in your own community, you have to travel to Banff or Cochrane instead. 

Furthermore, Alberta Health Services is so overwhelmed by the numbers of positive coronavirus cases at the moment, it has scaled back contact tracing for the general public. Early on, Kenney boasted about Alberta's testing and contact tracing capabilities. He should have been investing in them further in anticipation of this second wave. 

We are eight months deep into this situation and leadership is conspicuously absent. Leadership on regulations, on mask wearing, contact tracing and providing testing services. 

We may all be in this together, but some of us are in a position to take a leadership role. We expect better from both Hinshaw and Kenney before it is too late and more drastic measures are needed.



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