Let's look back on what I thought was the most shocking news conference of 2021.
I keep track of things in the news that surprise me when they occur. I call it my Holy Shit List and it’s interesting to look back at the end of every year to see what shocked me when I heard about it.
Some items on the list are predictable like the January 6 insurrection in Washington, DC. However, there are others that get lost in the shuffle, but they’re really interesting to look back on.
One of the stories on my list came from a July 28, 2021 news conference from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. Let me set the stage for this newser. Just over a month before, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced his Open For Summer plan at a time when daily COVID case count numbers in Alberta were very low. However, the Calgary Stampede kicked off and the party was on. COVID was over. We were told to accept it from Kenney’s then Press Secretary Matt Wolf.
Problem was, COVID came back and case count numbers started to rise. Despite that, when Dr. Hinshaw met the media after being out of the spotlight for a couple of weeks, she announced that Alberta would soon stop testing, contact tracing and isolating. Remember that?
Here’s an edited reminder of what happened that day. It's interesting to look back to see how much has changed.
Taking the Foot Off the COVID Brake
Getting back to my Holy Shit list, the reason this news conference was on it, was because I was shocked that Dr. Hinshaw would be announcing an end to testing and isolation for COVID positive people when case counts were rising once again.
I had all kinds of questions. What? Why? Is she serious?
The announcements seemed to have come out of left field and appeared to me, and most others who commented at the time that it was far too early to remove these public health measures.
We know what happened a couple of weeks later – COVID numbers continued their dramatic climb upwards and Hinshaw announced her plan to end testing and mandated isolations would be scrapped.
By the fall, Alberta’s hospitals were overrun with COVID patients. Thousands and thousands of surgeries had to be delayed. Our health care system faced the worst crisis ever, because the Open For Summer Plan of Premier Kenney, that was supported by Dr. Hinshaw, turned into the worst health care decision in Alberta’s history.
We should never forget the errors that were made last summer, as the Alberta government took its foot off the brake far too early.
It Wasn't the Worst Announcement
Fast forward to today and we start another year with children not going back to school as planned and thousands of new cases every day. Are we in a better position that we were a year ago? In some ways yes and in some ways no we’re not.
Despite what happened last summer, we are seeing changes in the way the government is handling COVID, somewhat similar to what was announced on July 28.
People are told to use rapid tests if they have symptoms and not to book an appointment at an AHS COVID testing centre. Of course, that means daily case count numbers are pretty well meaningless. The isolation period has also been reduced from ten days to five for those who are vaccinated. We're following the lead of the US on that, as are a few other provinces. That may not be a wise move.
It’s not the same as what Hinshaw announced on that hot summer day at the end of July last year, but pretty close. It didn’t make sense then and maybe it doesn't make sense now.
I will remember those announcements on July 28 for a long time to come. We all should. I guess the only good news for the government is, because of Kenney’s Open For Summer announcement, it wasn’t the worst move of the year.