EDMONTON — Amid an influx of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Alberta is reinstating measures it got rid of just two months ago as well as offering a $100 vaccination incentive.
Starting Saturday, masks will be mandatory across the province in all indoor public and work spaces. Schools will continue to set their own policies.
As well, licensed businesses will be required to end alcohol service at 10 p.m.
And, Alberta will pay unvaccinated residents $100 to get the COVID-19 shot.
The announcement on Friday followed a plea from Premier Jason Kenney for the 30 per cent of eligible unvaccinated Albertans to “do the right thing.”
“Their choices are now jeopardizing our health care system…. It is urgent that you protect yourself, our hospitals and our entire community by getting the benefit of this miracle of modern medicine as soon as possible.”
He characterized the spread of the Delta variant in the unvaccinated population as “ripping its way through this group at an aggressive rate.”
PANDEMIC OF THE UNVACCINATED
According to provincial data, since the province fully reopened July 1, unvaccinated adults between the ages of 20 and 59 have had 50 to 60 times higher risk of hospitalization. More than 80 per cent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations since July 1 have been unvaccinated people. Of the current 114 ICU patients, 91 per cent are unvaccinated.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he and his colleagues “honestly thought” more of the public would be vaccinated by September when they lifted restrictions in June. That decision, he said, was based off data from the United Kingdom which suggested “Delta caused a spike in cases but didn’t have the same impact on hospitalizations and deaths.
“That the cases were decoupled from sever outcomes, I should say. Unfortunately, we’re not seeing the same decoupling we expected in terms of the whole population.”
The province also released its modelling used to craft its reopening plan that launched on July 1.
The modelling shows Alberta is approaching the model’s ‘high scenario’ which would see more than 1,700 cases a day within the next two weeks.
It also indicates the number of patients in hospital is also rising quicker than anticipated, with as many as 300 patients in ICU and nearly 700 non-ICU hospitalizations listed as a ‘high scenario’ that could play out over the next three weeks.
The premier also warned Friday that the modelling’s projected late-September peak could be “longer and later.”
All officials made another attempt to convince hesitant residents of the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“And if you just haven’t gotten around to if, for the love of God, please get vaccinated now,” Kenney begged.
The mask and alcohol rules are the only hard lines being set by the Alberta government.
It is also recommending, where possible, employers do not plan to bring employees back to the office.
And officials encouraged unvaccinated people to limit their social visits to close contacts: no more than two families totalling 10 people. Vaccinated Albertans do not need to do the same.
Non-urgent surgeries are being postponed in all five health regions, too.
Kenney remarked earlier in the press conference:
The personal incentive program will be available to all Albertans who receive their first or second shot between Sept. 3 and Oct. 14 in the form of one pre-filled debit card. Those who want to receive it will need to register online starting Sept. 13.
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