News & Politics

Time to Move to Canada? Alberta Declares COVID-19 a Common Flu

(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

If it weren’t for the snow and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I would emigrate to Alberta, Canada. Like Sweden, which displayed significant intestinal fortitude in defying the lockdown drumbeat throughout the pandemic, Alberta is using common sense. The province is satisfied with the vaccine uptake among its citizens, and COVID-19 is losing special status.

COVID-19 is officially losing its special status in Alberta, signalling an end to the pandemic in the province. The Chinese Virus will be treated just like the flu and other respiratory diseases in Alberta, according to the latest provincial guidance.

On Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney’s government took a bold step and announced that quarantines are no longer mandatory for anyone who tests positive for the virus beginning on July 29th.

According to the press release, provincial leaders are recognizing that viruses are going to virus:

Nearly 75.6 percent of eligible Albertans have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 64.3 percent are fully immunized. Vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of severe outcomes and the risk of infection. While COVID-19 cases may rise in the coming months, a surge of hospitalizations and other severe outcomes is much less likely thanks to vaccines.

In the coming weeks, Alberta’s health system will take steps to make sure that it is ready to support all patients, including those with COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, like influenza, which health officials expect to increase this year.

Alberta measures severe illness and hospitalizations rather than positive tests. Quarantine will now move from mandatory to recommended if you receive a positive test. They will continue to test for severe cases and manage outbreaks in high-risk settings like nursing homes. However, this is typical of what the United States does for influenza.

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The transition will take place over the next several weeks, but one notable recommendation is that people only get a test if they become symptomatic. Asymptomatic testing is now discouraged. This is the recommendation for all other respiratory viruses and what many areas of Sweden recommended from the start. Contact tracing will be limited to high-risk settings, and health officials will concentrate on surges in infections with severe outcomes.

Mandatory masking in schools and in public will end on August 16. As of today, it is limited to healthcare facilities, public transportation, and rideshares. Recommendations for outbreaks in nursing homes, schools, and daycares will move to the set of recommendations for all respiratory virus outbreaks. Perhaps my favorite sentence is this one:

This [COVID-19] testing will be available through assessment centres until Aug. 31 and, after that, will be in primary care settings including physicians’ offices. For those with severe illness requiring urgent or emergency care, testing will be available in acute care and hospital settings.

Alberta is bringing doctors back into the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. This directive is better for patients and communities because primary care offices have the best purview of what is going on regarding circulating illness in the community. By August 16, it is a safe bet that residents of Alberta, Canada, will have more freedoms than residents of Los Angeles.

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