Premier Jason Kenney addresses fourth wave concerns in Facebook Live appearance

CALGARY — In a Facebook Live appearance Wednesday night, Premier Jason Kenney defended his government’s handling of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenney, speaking publicly for the first time since Aug. 9, echoed remarks made by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw that re-implementing restrictions is not the way to move forward in the public health crisis.

“As Dr.Hinshaw has said, we have to, in the long run, learn to live with COVID by which she means that the virus will continue to circulate,” he said.

“There is no viable so-called COVID zero policy,” he added. “You can see the catastrophic failure of that in places like Australia and New Zealand, where cases continue to go up even through they’ve been on multiple prolonged, severely-damaging lockdowns.”

Rather than restrictions, Kenney said the emphasis should be on vaccinations.

“This is really a wave of the unvaccinated. Over 90 per cent of people in ICU with COVID right now are unvaccinated and it has increasingly become a disease of the unvaccinated,” he said.

“If we had instead of 78 per cent of vaccine coverage or 69 per cent full coverage, if we had 90 per cent coverage, we would not have meaningful pressure on the health-care system.”

What we have to do here is keep pushing those vaccine numbers up, ensure that we have the healthcare capacity. And we may have to take other measures to encourage people, the unvaccinated, to ensure that they are not putting themselves in a position of transmitting.”

While he didn’t get specific about what those other measures might be, Kenney rejected the notion of a vaccine passport for Albertans.

“That doesn’t mean vaccine passports In my view but it means, please people, if you’re not getting vaccinated please act responsibly because you’re jeopardizing your own health, that of your neighbours, your family and your loved ones.”

NO PROVINCIAL MASK MANDATE

As far as mask mandates go, Kenney said individual institutions and businesses were free to implement their own policies.

“The reality is that people if they feel they should wear a mask they can do so and there is a mask mandate that applies to rapid transit and mass transit, rideshares, taxis, and of course certain work places like hospitals and long term care centres and other particular workplaces,” he said.

Responding to criticism that he has been AWOL during the fourth wave, Kenney said, “I know some people were apparently angry that I took a bit of personal time but I don’t do that much… as I say… it’s the second time I’ve taken what I would call an extended period off .. A couple of weeks since 2015…  Especially for everyone in a high pressure job, having a chance to recharge your batteries, rest and reflect to catch up on your sleep is very important to your productivity.”

The province reported 1,315 new cases Wednesday, the most since May 13, pushing the active case count to 12,290, about where it was in the third week of May.

The number of Albertans receiving care for COVID-19 in intensive care units reached a three-month high on Wednesday, according to the province’s Wednesday data update.

The latest numbers show 107 patients in ICU, up 87 since Aug. 1 and the highest since June 3. 

Those 107 are included in 465 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the most since May 29.

More than 88 per cent of those in ICU are unvaccinated, as are close to 76 per cent of those in hospital.

With files from CTV Edmonton

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