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Hinshaw to give COVID-19 update as UCP suggests lifting restrictions

Thursday’s update comes as hospitals in the province continue to see record-breaking numbers of patients with COVID-19

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Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw will provide an update on COVID-19 Thursday afternoon as the provincial government suggests lifting public health measures in the coming days.

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The update at 3:30 p.m. comes as hospitals in the province continue to see record-breaking numbers of patients with COVID-19. There are 1,598 Albertans in hospital with the virus, marking an increase of 13 people from the day prior.

While there was a slight jump in hospitalizations, intensive care units saw a decrease of three patients with 106 reported in ICU on Wednesday.

Premier Jason Kenney, who is not scheduled to appear at today’s conference, suggested Alberta could begin relaxing public health measures by the end of the month if the province sees a sustainable decline in hospitalizations on Tuesday.

“Once we see a sustained reduction in COVID pressure on the hospitals, I am looking to being able to make decisions about moving toward relaxation of public health measures at that time,” Kenney said.

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However, the United Conservative caucus suggested a much faster timeline for reopening on Wednesday.

Caucus chair Nathan Neudorf issued a statement suggesting Alberta will begin lifting restrictions “very soon, likely within days,” starting with the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP). Neudorf also denied reports the UCP rural caucus had negotiated an agreement with protesters participating in the Coutts border blockade to lift the REP.

A member of Kenney’s cabinet has also called for the premier to remove public health restrictions. Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said he will “hold” Kenney to his promise to remove vaccination mandates “imminently,” in a statement issued Thursday.

“I am not a doctor, so like many I have relied on the advice of doctors for the past two years … But it is clear now that mandates like the Restrictions Exemption Program are not as effective against the current COVID-19 situation as much as health officials expected,” Nixon wrote.

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An additional 14 COVID-related deaths were reported on Wednesday, bringing the province to 3,593 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Alberta reported 3,024 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday from 7,643 PCR tests. The cases represent a 40 per cent test positivity rate.

As chair of the City of Calgary’s community development and emergency management committee, Coun. Kourtney Penner said she is working with city administration and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) on how changes to provincial health measures will impact Calgarians and the city’s business community.

“Stay tuned and know safety is top of mind,” Penner wrote on Twitter Thursday.

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More to come… 

bgervais@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BrittGervaisAB

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