Just hours before the Labour Day long weekend kicked off on Sept. 3, Albertans were greeted with a news conference from Premier Jason Kenney – who had been relatively M.I.A. in recent weeks – alongside Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Dr. Verna Yiu, who is Alberta Health Services’ president and CEO.
For many Albertans, the September long weekend is often thought of as the finale of summer – kids go back to school, indoor sports and activities start up again, the countdown to the hockey season begins, and we start to worry about the arrival of snow.
This long weekend, however, Albertans were given a different sort of ‘finale’ if you will, when the premier emerged from his vacation and announced that – surprise – things are getting kind of bad again.
‘Things’ meaning COVID-19.
The solution laid out by the government was to once again reinstate mask mandates in indoor, public spaces, regardless of vaccination status, but they stopped short of requiring masking in schools.
Other government measures were to require all restaurants and bars to stop liquor service at 10 p.m., but they made exceptions for large-scale, private events.
The government is also offering a $100 pre-paid debit card to encourage the unvaccinated to go get the jab and recommend they limit their close contacts and wear masks in public places, (because the Province truly believes that if they haven’t done so thus far, they’ll definitely start now thanks to a $100 incentive).
If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m not happy. Not because I don’t want to wear a mask again, or because it means I can’t go out for a drink at 11 p.m. on a Thursday.
I’m not happy because our government has chosen to allow the fourth wave to progress on the backs of those who made the conscious decision not to listen to medical experts. Now, it seems the solution is to try and coax and pat them on the head.
This $100 incentive may work for those who truly have faced barriers in accessing vaccines due to socio-economic status, employment status or transportation issues. But I don’t think it’s going to do anything for the people who feel privileged enough to refuse the jab.
In my opinion, the most effective way to encourage an uptake in vaccines – which science has proven reduce symptoms and therefore, hospital and ICU admission rates – is to mandate them for access to non-essential businesses. British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have already gone down this route, and it’s led to spikes in vaccination appointments.
Proof of anything, whether it be age, citizenship, vaccination, is not a new thing. We need a piece of I.D. to get into a bar, a passport to get on a plane, a social insurance number to get a paycheque, and a health card to receive medical care.
Wake me up when September ends. Or, when the government actually makes a decision with Albertans in mind – whichever comes first.