Alberta Teachers Association President Jason Schilling summed up the feelings of many Albertans earlier this week when the association sent out possibly the shortest press release our newsroom has ever received.
Responding to Premier Jason Kenney’s May 3 announcement that teachers and school support staff are now eligible to book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments, Schilling issued the following two-word statement to media:
While certainly a snooty response, Schilling’s brief retort is reflective of the antagonistic relationship that currently exists between Alberta’s teachers and the provincial government.
Hundreds of thousands more Albertans probably uttered those same two words on May 4, when Kenney announced a new slate of restrictions that will be implemented throughout most of the province. The restrictions include a ban on in-person dining in restaurants, a five-person limit on outdoor social gatherings, a 10 per cent occupancy limit in stores and a temporary shift back to at-home learning for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12, among others.
The provincial government has waited incredibly long to implement these restrictions. In the last month, it feels like our government’s strategy to stem the ongoing spike of COVID-19 was a hope we could vaccinate our way out of a third wave that has been heightened by the arrival and spread of highly contagious variants. That plan hasn't worked, and our numbers are, unfortunately, worse than they've ever been.
Alberta’s COVID-19 situation is scary. According to Health Canada, Alberta’s transmission rate was 308 cases per 100,000 people last week. Our per-capita rate of cases is currently 80 per cent higher than Ontario’s – the province with the second highest rate of transmission, which enacted a four-week stay-at-home order earlier this spring. Alberta currently has the highest rate of transmission of any Canadian province or U.S. state.
The coming weeks will tell if the restrictions on May 4 will bring those numbers down, or if it will be too little, too late. We would borrow Schilling's statement that it was "about time" they were enacted.